Fabric Trio

Murmurs
NoBusiness NBLP 66

Grid Mesh

Live in Madrid

Leo Records CD LR 677

Proof that the power and excitement of so-called Free Jazz have never gone away, are these two superior CDs featuring the alto and soprano saxophones of Neuss-born Frank Paul Schubert. As further evidence of how the genre’s boundless energy has become part of Jazz’s lingua franca, each of these co-op bands is filled out by different musicians from different countries, all of whom were too young to have experienced the initial flowering of Energy Music except by osmosis.

On Live in Madrid, Schubert, who plays regularly with musicians from young trombonist Matthias Müller and veteran drummer Günter Baby Sommer, is joined by drummer Willi Kellers, who has worked with everyone from bassist Barre Phillips to saxophonist Peter Brötzmann; guitarist Andreas Willers whose gigs include affiliations with reedist Gebhard Ullmann and drummer Jim Black; and trombonist Johannes Bauer who at points has worked with nearly everyone on the Euro scene. An international affair, Murmurs matches Schubert with Greek drummer Yorgos Dimitriadis, who has recorded with saxophonist Floros Floridis; and Australian bassist Mike Majkowski who has played with pianist Chris Abrahams among others.

Recorded in Berlin, the Fabric Trio’s disc demonstrates throughout that intense improvisations can be created with a moderate as well as an agitated interface. Maintaining his equilibrium on both horns Schubert includes needed silences in his solos and otherwise alternates sprightly fluttering breaths with pinpointed squeaks or repeated blats. Majkowski, whose percussive quivers contribute an undertow of thickening tension to “Acorn/Tongue”, often injects buzzing string slices into his work to shake up as well as bind individuals’ contributions. Instructively if not perhaps intentionally, the titles of two tunes provide onomatopoeic glimpses into their construction. Although it includes bristling reed honks and martial percussion pulsing on top of the bassist’s bonding continuum, “Hook” is completed with Schubert’s variations on the hook which initially introduces the narrative. As indolent as some of the other pieces are hyperactive, “Decomposer” never loses its thematic thread, even though the saxophonist expressively quivers the theme with narrowed trills alongside slight percussion rubs, with the bass stops providing the ballast.

There’s no steadying bass player on Live in Madrid, which means it’s a tribute to the skills of the four members of Grid Mesh that these extended performances don’t spiral out of control. In addition, with additional time-space available, multiphonics are more prominent than any linear form in these narratives. Improvising in various combinations of duos and trios, each player expresses himself distinctively with Bauer’s strategy for instance ranging through raucous yodels to vocalized, near-Dixieland pumps, while Schubert’s nasal overtones are as apt to take centre stage as his yakkity-sax tongue splutters. Since the guitarist’s equally exciting response to these sonic provocations are frenetic licks and loops, Kellers is often the odd man out, using tick-tock rhythms to concoct the glue that keeps the tunes from deconstructing.

The free-for-all certainly gets the adrenalin pumping and energizes the audience, but the band members never let you forget there’s a purpose behind their bravura. After taking improvisations to the brink of cacophony throughout, the quadruple counterpoint on the final “Part 3” allows each man to assert his individuality. Willers’ contributions evolve from pastoral accompaniment to taunt string snaps, the better to intersect with the horns’ crescendo of cries and burps; while Schubert’s unbridled siren wails and tongue slaps niche perfectly with Bauer’s slurps and shudders; and Kellers suddenly adds tinkling piano cadenzas alongside his percussion thunder. Decisively and properly, the track climaxes and retreats into silence.

Holding his own in demanding situations by adding original variations on Free Jazz, Schubert proves himself a reed man whose every advance is worth following.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Live: 1. Part 1 2. Part 2 3. Part 3

Personnel: Live: Johannes Bauer (trombone); Frank Paul Schubert (alto and soprano saxophones); Andreas Willers (guitar and devices) and Willi Kellers (drums and remote piano)

Track Listing: Murmurs: Side A: 1. Jaw 2. The Salt of Pleasure 3. Hook 4. Bristles Side B 5. Decomposer 6. Acorn/Tongue

Personnel: Murmurs: Frank Paul Schubert (soprano and alto saxophones); Mike Majkowski (bass) and Yorgos Dimitriadis (drums)