Tanja Feichtmair/Uli Winter/Fredi Pröll

Trio Now!
Leo CD LR 674

Best known in the improvising world for the Kaleidophon, a world-class improvised music festival that takes place there annually, Trio Now proves that world-class players also reside in the tiny Austrian village of Ulrichsberg. On their debut recording alto saxophonist and bass clarinetist Tanja Feichtmair, cellist Uli Winter and drummer Fredi Pröll demonstrate that they can hold their own in any Free Music context.

As sutured together as any rhythm partners, Winter and Pröll have been playing together practically daily for years, and have also worked in bands with German reedist Udo Schindler plus Austrians such as pianist Elisabeth Harnik and vocalist Agnes Heginger. Younger than the others, Feichtmair has played in a band with her associates here plus keyboardist Josef Noovotny – who engineered this CD – as well as German pianist Georg Gräwe, British guitarist John Russell and American composer Anthony Braxton.

Not as elaborate as any Braxton piece and more committed to Jazz improvisations, the three comfortably inhabit their own space. For a start, although he’s eminently capable of compelling technical wizardry on his chosen instrument, Winter mostly takes the role of a bassist, providing the tempo stabilization needed to keep performances flowing. For his part Pröll shows a dual personality. He isn’t afraid to use mallet thumps and chinking cymbals to source novel colors for those impressionistic themes which slide near New music. Yet he also possess a powerful press roll and an unfailing time sense, which like Art Blakey, allows him to corral errant asides from the others into propelled swing.

With her playing frenetic at times and dyspeptic at others, depending on which horn she’s using, Feichtmair covers all the territory necessary to keep the six tunes consistently fascinating. On the title track for instance, she spews, masticates and shears any number of Aylerian alto saxophone tones to color and curve around the narrative. Yet elsewhere she can vary her output enough to create relaxing, barely-there textures. On “Free Eggs” – also a showcase for Winter’s scratching and thumping – she lets the cellist take centre stage while restricting herself to ghostly vibrations which only reluctantly turn spiny, and only then to meet Winter challenges. At points she purposely sets up a single-line, semi-romantic interface with the others, only to fragment her lines into shrills as the remaining two turn to wood-affiliated sweeps and plucks on Winter’s part and sparking cymbal work with a swing centre orientation on Pröll’s. The resulting music is simultaneously inside and outside.

Turning the beginning of “Over The Rainbow” into queer-voiced burlesques of the standard’s lyrics, the members of Trio Now prove they have a sense of humor as well as improvisational dexterity. In short, 2014 would appear to be the moment for the Austrian threesome to come down from the mountain and start playing more out-of-town gigs.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Now! 2. Walter 3. The Gift 4. Free Eggs 5. Flyblood 6. Over The Rainbow

Personnel: Tanja Feichtmair (alto saxophone and bass clarinet); Uli Winter (cello) and Fredi Pröll (drums)