Boris Hauf Sextet

Next Delusion
Clean Feed: CF 238 CD

Boris Hauf/Steven Hess/Keefe Jackson

Proxemics

Creative Sources CS 184 CD

Fascinated by the minimalist textures revealed by balancing percussion and reed timbres plus an overlay of electronics, Berlin-based saxophonist Boris Hauf convened these telekinetic exercises in collective improvisation during a 2010 busman`s holiday in Chicago.

A frequent visitor to that city, Hauf is best known for his work with the efzeg combo, but these CDs are even more reductionist. Replacing the guitars that were part of efzeg with piano micro-tonalism of one-name Austrian Juun, plus his own harmonium playing on Proxemics, Hauf fills out the juddering narrative with contributions from his tenor and soprano saxophones, Keefe Jackson’s contrabass clarinet and tenor saxophone and Steven Hess’s drum beats. Hess, who is almost prominent in metal bands; Hauf and Jackson, who leads his own band and is a fixture in Chicago FreeBop combos; are all accounted for on Next Delusion with the trio augmented by exploratory Windy City bass clarinetist Jason Stein and two additional drummers: Michael Hartman and Frank Rosaly, both of whom gig frequently on the Chi-town Jazz scene.

In all honesty the discrepancy in the sound density between four or six players is minimal. Both measured and lingering the sextet’s four tracks travel a similar linear path as the three advanced by the quartet. If anything the most audible variation is the prominent reed textures Next Delusion. Often Stein’s bass clarinet, Jackson’s contrabass clarinet and the lower notes from Hauf’s tenor inflate together into an exposition of subterranean-pitched, tugboat-horn-like blowing. At the same time the output is never completely opaque, as split tones, snorts as well as linear air movements are also audible. Although the potential exists for rhythmic heavy-handedness from the three accomplished drummers, instead the percussionists are exemplary in cooperation. For every explosion of united rolls, ruffs and rebounds that upsets the chromatic cohesion, there are many more instances of the kit manipulators limiting themselves to rumbling timbres on drum tops or isolating cymbal claps and splashes.

If there’s a defining track it’s “Fame & Riches”; obviously no reflection of those involved with experimental improvised music. Beginning with reed tongue-slaps, flutters and squeaks, bass clarinet slurps and contrabass clarinet slurs eventually coagulate into a dense, nearly motionless reed mass. Finally meticulously angled saxophone lines and microtonal drum slaps reanimate the sequence.

Similar microtonal, chromatic interface is obvious on Proxemics, even if oscillating and shrill signal processing from Hauf’s sine tone and Hess’s electronics are more obvious. So are individual reed and piano strategies that reference Free Jazz. “Social”, the shortest track, contrasts straightforward tenor saxophone split tones backed by piano comping and drum top spanks. As Juan alternates her output between marimba-like string plucks and tremolo keyboard runs, puffing saxophone and clarinet air expelling maintain the track’s fragile equilibrium. Cascading and continuous harmonium washes on “Personal” similarly bring forth razzing sibilates from Jackson plus strident no-mouthpiece body toots from Hauf’s horn.

This combination of austere friction, moderated lyricism and near-ambient electronic synthesis is expanded to its fullest on the more than 29½ -minute “Public”. While the electronic shimmies often produce an unyielding ostinato as the horn men’s slurs slide into one another, there are still enough obvious jagged edges to keep the track lively. Among the standout signs are Juan’s clattering piano keys and tickling minimalist note patterns; bell-ringing and sequence-shattering from the percussionist’s raps and rolls; plus key percussion, mouthpiece whistling and balanced tongue slaps from the saxophonists.

With a mixture of European concepts and American know-how, Hauf and company maintain individual expression among the harmonies and rhythms of extended group expression. Both sessions make an impression and the textural attribute of either band could be advantageously developed by Hauf for further sound explorations.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Proxemics: 1. Public 2. Social 3. Personal

Personnel: Proxemics: Keefe Jackson (contrabass clarinet and tenor saxophone); Boris Hauf (tenor and soprano saxophones, sine tones and harmonium); Juun (piano) and Steven Hess (drums and electronics)

Track Listing: Next: 1. Gregory Grant Machine 2. Eighteen Ghost Roads 3. Fame & Riches 4. Wayward Lanes

Personnel: Next: Jason Stein (bass clarinet); Keefe Jackson (contrabass clarinet and tenor saxophone); Boris Hauf (tenor and soprano saxophones); Michael Hartman and Frank Rosaly (drums) and Steven Hess (drums and electronics)