Enrico Sartori/Tobias Delius/Tristan Honsinger

Baboon
Rudi Records RRJ 1012

Hanam Quintet

Featuring Tristan Honsinger

AUT Records AUT 008

Experimental bands featuring only strings and reeds are no novelty; at this juncture even those matching cellos and saxophone don’t cause lifted eyebrows. Yet the participants in these sessions have raised the ante a bit more by restricting themselves to only instruments from those families. The results are mixed. While Baboon, made up of veteran improvisers is only a slightly flawed example of in-the-moment improvising, the Hanam Quintet doesn’t jell as successfully. Even though cellist Tristan Honsinger, who is one-third of Baboon, is also on the other disk, his presence merely adds to the reed-string unbalance. In short mixing his tones with those of reedists Enrico Sartori and Tobias Delius on Baboon creates enough space for all; having his cello added to patterns from Alison Blunt’s violin, Niko Meinhold’s piano and Horst Nonnenmacher’s double bass overloads the program. That’s because only Manuel Miethe’s soprano saxophone and Anna Kaluza’s alto saxophone are around the face the string interface.

Individually the Berlin-based Hanam contingent has ample experience to attempt live improvisations as they do on this CD. Blunt, for instance is also a member of the Barrel string trio; while Meinhold has composed for big bands as well as theatre productions; plus Nonnenmacher plays with saxophonist Adam Pieronczyk. Kaluza has worked with the likes of trombonist Christof Thewes and was in the London Improvisers Orchestra with Blunt. Miethe moves between straight-ahead and improv and has worked with pianist Antonis Anissegos.

In short and in all honestly, the two tracks without the cellist aren’t that different from the seven with him, since Honsinger’s staccato techniques merely adds to the strains and scrubs from the other strings. However the Amsterdam-based cellist, whose experience encompasses membership in the ICP Orchestra plus improvising with players including pianist Cecil Taylor, is by accident or design on board when the performances appear more under control.

Previously the quintet’s expositions are characterized by pumping, wiggling, col legno string portions brushing up against tremolo, agitated piano lines and whistling corkscrew saxophone outpouring. With the cellist around however the narratives moves forward in a more unified fashion. Toy piano clinks and arching fiddle lines brush up against impressionistic string patterns so that when the saxophones enter three parallel and intersecting lines are heard. By the finale, the six-person “Live at CHB” is wrapped up with a proper rhythmic function including pedal-point pianism and string-stopping that organically blends with chromatic reed lines.

Halving the number of players on Baboon immediately appears to make the 11 tracks freer and less cluttered than the nine on the Hanam Quintet CD. Also recorded live, the appropriate pushing and pulling textures are better balanced throughout, with tones seamlessly blended and extended. Again all three players are old hands at this, with now-Berlin-based tenor saxophonist and Bb clarinetist Tobias Delius, who frequently plays with Honsinger has been in bands with everyone from drummer Han Bennink to reedist Daniele D’Agaro. Munich-based, Italian-born Enrico Sartori, whose specialities are alto saxophone, Bb and alto clarinets was a member of Bassesfere in Bologna, and has collaborated with musicians such as D’Agaro and composer Alvin Curran.

There’s a feeling on constant motion throughout these performances, with motifs passed back and forth, even as the cellist frequently takes on the time-keeping role with a thick stopping and foot stamps and the hornmen’s staccato japes include aviary-like squeaks and overblowing. Unlike the other disc as well, pauses exist, with lapses into dead air negated with peculiar Dutch-styled humor that mostly takes the form of the three joking among themselves in a variety of mumbling dialects including double-talk. At the same time these joking respites are finally and appropriately pushed out of the way by more committed playing, including tenor sax honks from Delius, penetrating altissimo slurs from Sartori, and/or string-scattering pops from the cellist.

When the three aren’t outputting balanced triple counterpart, sequence become individual showcase. The tenor saxophonist’s squeaky split tones are featured on “Four Short Stories”; and Honsinger’s shaking tremolo on “Fastidi 2”, which somehow makes it seem as if echoes from other celli are present. Winding down Delius introduces motifs ranging from what could be a parody of heavily vibrated Free Jazz reed mutation and clarinet glissandi that would fit any Dixieland band. By the conclusion however, three-cornered contributions slow down enough to widen into a pleasing blend. True to his disruptive nature, Honsinger still makes the final statement, asserting winnowing conclusive pops from his string set.

Baboon is textbook example of perfectly balanced three-part improvising with few dead spots. Although the Hanam Quintet doesn’t reach this standard, considering the talent on hand, the group will likely reach the same plateau some time soon. A couple of unsolicited tips for the five: more humor and more space needed.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Baboon: 1. Father 2. Mother 3. Brother 4. Sister 5. Four Short Stories 6. Trialogues 7. Nientese 8. Fastidi 1 9. Fastidi 2 10. Ten, Eleven, Twelve 11. Paesaggio Lunare

Personnel: Baboon: Enrico Sartori (alto saxophone, Bb and alto clarinets); Tobias Delius (tenor saxophone and Bb clarinet) and Tristan Honsinger (cello)

Track Listing: Featuring: 1. Live at Lumen URC 1 2. Live at Lumen URC 2 3. Live at CHB 1 4. Live at CHB 2 5. Live at CHB 3 6. Live at CHB 4 7. Live at CHB with T. Hongsinger* 1 8. Live at CHB with T. Hongsinger 2* 9. Live at CHB with T. Hongsinger 3*

Personnel: Featuring: Manuel Miethe (soprano saxophone); Anna Kaluza (alto saxophone); Alison Blunt (violin); Tristan Honsinger (cello*); Niko Meinhold (piano and toy piano) and Horst Nonnenmacher (bass)