September 11, 2012
Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø
Creative Sources CS177 CD
Cadence Jazz Records CJR 1240
JazzHaus Musik JHM 195
By Ken Waxman
More so than most brass instruments, the trombone has the structure to be used as a solo instrument – a slide, valves, as well as a series of mutes. Acceptance of multiphonic improvising on discs such as Albert Mangelsdorff’s Trombirds (MPS) in 1972 and George Lewis’ 1976 The Solo Trombone Record (Sackville) added an impetus to this idea, so that now nearly every trombonist worth his water key attempts a solo strategy.
Yet, as these choice examples of contemporary European solo trombone discs make obvious, careful planning as well as limitless chops is needed to make things work. Veteran Aachen-based Paul Hubweber decided to balance his improvisations on Trombone Songs with some of Charlie Parker’s more familiar lines. Younger, Oslo-based Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø on the other hand creates 10 solo tracks which are microtonal and abstract, While Christof Thewes from Schiffweiler, Germany, takes a middle course, consecrating one track to an Ornette Coleman medley and uses extended techniques on the others.
Hubweber, who since the ‘70s has worked with everyone from drummer Paul Lovens to DJ Sniff, hedges his bets here. Not only does he play six Bird tunes, but some of the other solos are actually contrafacts of contrafacts. For instance when he creates his version of “A Le U Cha”, he’s playing a piece which Bird manufactured from “Honeysuckle Rose” with a bridge based on the chord changes of “I Got Rhythm”. So when he builds strident tongue jujitsu and pedal-point growls into a near call-and-response variant, the aural mirrors reflect more than his own image –or even Parker’s. Contrast that with his reading of “Lover Man”, in which his rugged pitch-sliding and gargling cries make the piece even more dyspeptic and agitated. Furthermore among dark guffaws, split tones and staccato runs, suggestions of contrafacts from pop tunes such as “The Girl from Ipanema” or “Love Me or Leave Me” sneak into his own compositions. More noteworthy and apparently unburdened with musical history is “Albärtz Lark’s Tongues”. Friction-laden, but alive with jocular glisses, bouncy rhythmic parts and clean blowing, the piece jumps among body tube farts, fanfares and tongue-twisting trills without ever losing its chromatic or capricious rhythm.
Nothing as mundane as a melody interrupts Nørstebø’s Solo. However among the blustery guffaws and agitated glissandi, some surprisingly expressive timbres can be heard. For instance “s3” may have a finale based on doubling the brass tone with throat-murmured growls, but the exposition is dedicated to fully formed vibrations resulting from a blustery chromatic tone and tongue stops. Meanwhile “s5” commences with what in other circumstances would be a blues line and is extended in such a way that Nørstebø ends up creating call-and-response, with one voice staccato and altissimo and the other mid-range and gliding. Utilizing extended brass techniques ranging from wide-bore blowing to expansive throat tightening, Nørstebø produces any manner of textures from his horn. Other standouts occur on “s6” when kazoo-like echoes and purring with half-valve effects eventually evolve to quivering syntax; and “s8” where barely-there pressurized inner bell glissandi swell enough so that by the end they’re almost noisy.
Thewes’ Coleman-mash-up of “Free/Beauty is a Rare Thing/Rambin’” is more dissonant than Hubweber’s tune strategy. Although the often-sprightly themes peak through, Thewes is more concerned with theme variations. Smooth, chromatic glissandi are quickly replaced by disjointed deconstructions, spiced with verbal mumbles and shouts, and studded with fuzzy triplets, gruff tonalities and even a bugle-like tattoo. Other times his capillary strategies include plunger cries and mouthpiece bubbling, bagpipe-like quivering and fortissimo plunger evacuations. Using his voice to create multiphonics, there are other instances when he executes speedy runs with the facility of a cornet player. Thewes, who often works with pianist Ulrich Gumpert and in the Lacy Pool band, simultaneously salutes and extends the jazz tradition on the disc without making it obvious. Throughout “Ansichten des Fujiyama” for instance he alternates licks that are as mellow as Lawrence Brown’s with those which are as raucous as Roswell Rudd’s. Breezy and moderato at the top, he’s soon guffawing plus reverberating grace notes until reaching a sequence where pressurized brays sound as if they’re being shredded and forced through a solid, metallic sieve. By the climax however these tone bites are molded into chromatic notes.
Confirming the sliphorn’s range and suitability as a solo instrument, each of these discs also attests to the skills of a trio of trombone specialists.
Tracks: Trombone: Evelyn; Anthropology; A Le U Cha; BlueChi; Donna Lee; Here; Nelson; Lover Man; Scrapple; Albärtz Lark’s Tongues; Segment
Personnel: Trombone: Paul Hubweber: trombone
Tracks: Solo: s1; s2; s3; s4; s5; s6; s7; s8; s9; s10
Personnel: Solo: Henrik Munkeby Nørstebø: trombone
Tracks: Trombonealone: Tracks: Tagebuch_ 6 Juni; Rerflexion 4; Ballade (nach einem comic von moebius); Coleman medley: Free/Beauty is a Rare Thing/Rambin’; Ansichten des Fujiyama (nach einer story von Roger Zelazny); Tagebuch_4 April
Personnel: Trombonealone: Christof Thewes: trombone
—For New York City Jazz Record September 2012