January 18, 2014
Frank Paul Schubert/Matthias Müller
FMR CD 311-0511
Not Applicable NOT 027
One of the more interesting European trombonists to appear recently has been Berlin-based Matthias Müller, who has been releasing a series of ever more sophisticated CDs since the turn of the century. Firmly affiliated with the so-called avant-garde, but not so much part of it that he ignores the basic brass capacities of his instrument, two recent sessions firmly demonstrate his capabilities. Far more fulfilling is Tam, with the working trio of Müller, Berlin-based guitarist Olaf Rupp and Austrian drummer Rudi Fischerlehmer. Not that there’s anything fundamentally flawed with Foils, 10 duets with soprano saxophonist Frank Paul Schubert, another Berliner. It’s just that that CD is concerned with technical experimentation above all other aspects.
Throughout the two foils appear to be struggling to inject some sort of lyrical content into what is an examination of various timbres and textures under laboratory-like conditions. Even when the interface is slow-paced and balladic as on “Crackling Carcass”, Schubert’s strategy is still to amass a collection of strident extrusions that appear to be constantly juddering and jerking. It’s Müller who deepens the duet as his pedal-point growls define the bottom while coating the piece with calm. With the raison d’être experimentation, the few instances when Schubert introduces lyrical content are outpaced by the number of tongue slaps, irregular vibrations and altissimo reed shakes he isolates. Both musicians are sensitive to tempo, since despite how quickly or fragmented the narratives are, the theme is never lost. Plus many instances of double counterpoint are heard without integration. “Written on Rubber” is a lively instance of this as the trombonist’s flat-line capillary blows are subtly decorated with trills and twists from the saxophonist until they agree on a rugged, stentorian nearly percussive tone-melding. Unintentionally or not, one highlight of the set occurs on “Mourn”, which despite its title is more modulated than many of the other tracks. While slide-whistle-resembling and harmonica-like blows are audible, a gentling connection creates notable harmony between the two.
Recorded more than two years later Tam is a different matter, but it shares one shortcoming with the other session. As the CD advances and the tracks get shorter, there appears to be more focus in the improvisations. With the first two tracks clocking in at almost 23 and over 16 minutes respectively, technical novelty and experimentation trump the narrative(s), lessening concentration. It isn’t that there aren’t bracing musical tropes here, just too many of them that don’t add up to a cohesive whole. For instance on “Pre”, Rupp works his way from distanced Derek Bailey-like slurred fingering to slashing, Rock-like metallic quivers; Müller showcases tremolo slurs and almost never-ending guttural flutters; while Fischerlehmer outputs a thumping beat that sounds more shoe-gazing than jazz-stimulating. It’s only when Rupp’s hand tapping joins Müller’s dissonant plunger tones to create an ersatz Film Noir sound track that the isolated techniques pull together into an atmospheric theme. With individual dramatic sequences reaching a crescendo of emphasized tones, Rupp’s foreground slashes achieve heroic cohesion with drum taps and pedal-point brass providing the continuum.
While a tension-ridden build-up to an exhilarating release is exciting at times, the abbreviated improvisations on the final two selections allow the trio’s playing to dazzle more directly. Probably the most Jazz-like of the tracks “Sin” scores because of the sonic hook up happens quickly and is invested with more invention as the trio continues. When the drummer pumps out a bonding pattern, Rupp’s rushing chord sequences explores different parts of the fret board while coordinating with the trombonist’s staccato lines. For his part Müller’s Jungle Band-like guffaws lead up to a heart-stopping, staccato showcase which insinuates itself within the others’ ferocious narratives for a spectacular finale.
All in all, these CDs are two more high quality examples of Müller’s – and other musicians –near-classic playing. If both sessions are laudable without quite reaching the first rank, there’s no doubt that he – and the others – will have plenty of opportunities to best these discs in the future.
Track Listing: Foils: 1. Hunters 2. A Million Mirrors 3. Crackling Carcass 4. Lungs 5. The Epiphany Diagram 6. Black Water (Slow Repeat) 7. Written on Rubber 8. Mourn 9. In Braille
Personnel: Foils: Matthias Müller (trombone) and Frank Paul Schubert (soprano saxophone)
Track Listing: Tam: 1. Pre 2. Pei 3. Sin 4. Tam 07:24
Personnel: Tam: Matthias Müller (trombone); Olaf Rupp (guitar) and Rudi Fischerlehner (drums)