Matthias Schubert/Simon Nabatov

Leo Records CD LR 686

Lurk Lab

Lurk Lab

Gligg Records 018

Matthias Schubert

9 Compositions for The Multiple Joy [ce] Ensemble

Red Toucan # RT 9348

For the past couple of decades, Kassel-born tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert has come into his own as a valued sideman in various configurations as well as an infrequent leader of his own dates. Touching on different aspects of the saxophonist’s art, which encompasses Free Improv, electro-acoustics, straight-ahead Jazz and New music, the CDS here demonstrate how and why the versatile Schubert is almost always busy.

Lurk Lab, the earliest CD, was recorded about five years before the others and features Schubert in an uncharacteristic setting, joined by two Wiesbaden-residents, drummer Jörg Fischer and electronics sequencer Uli Böttcher. Descriptions on the other hand captures the newest chapter of interactions between Schubert and Russian-American pianist Simon Nabatov. Working on-and-off together for years, often in bands with other participants, the two have also been playing as duo since the mid-1980s. Uncharacteristically, 9 Compositions presents Schubert in a non-playing role, leading the 12-piece Multiple Joy [ce] Ensemble in interpretations of his tunes. Among the Köln-based ensemble’s members are players like tubaist Carl Ludwig Hübsch and guitarist Scott Fields with whom the saxophonist has maintained extended playing relationships.

It’s Böttcher’s wave-form quivers which provide the string-like bonding on Lurk Lab. Otherwise the trio’s live performances are fully part of the Free Jazz continuum which dates back to Albert Ayler. With its honks, slurs, growls plus swelling or deflating timbres, Schubert works all part of his horn. Altissimo or stentorian, the multiphonic reed lines are suitably joined by Fischer’s percussion clanging and shudders to produce linearity. However with the percussionist often confining himself to controlled rustles and ruffs, the face-off is usually between Schubert’s stylings, which can range from child-like squeaks to brutal reed bites, and Böttcher’s signal-processed shudders, clangs and whistles. “1000g Family” is the defining track with multifold drumming seconding each of the others in turn, carefully melding with the quaking eletro-oscillations or moderating into basic rasps that follow the saxophone sound’s transformation from inner body tube vibrations to moderato Free Bop. By the finale Schubert’s Tranesque stamina is reflected in auxiliary warbles from Böttcher.

Skipping forward a half-decade and there’s no hint of electronics, just acoustic piano and saxophone sequences which sort themselves into 10 duos or descriptions on the Nabatov-Schubert session. Each track appears to have a precise function, demonstrating the outstanding improvisational excursions of each and/or appropriate ripostes to the other performer’s notions. Endlessly fascinating, Nabatov’s inside sting plucking or keyboard caressing brings forth Schubert’s decision to confront staccato piano timbres with Aylerian harshness or mirror measured chording with Getzian smoothness. Broken tones radiate from each man’s playing whether melodious or stark timbres define the tracks. A tune such as “Obliqueness” can mutate from low-key inner-horn breaths plus piano soundboard slices and plucks, to a unique interface that excitedly matches shofar-like tones with hard-handed keyboard thumps. In contrast a piece such as “Accordance” ends the recital with tones so wispy they figuratively blow away after Nabatov’s sympathetic chording dissolves Schubert’s initial sharp tones.

Centrepiece of the disc is the aptly titled “Expansion”. Almost 17 minutes of parries and thrusts from both sides, the piece evolves in spherical fashion with the narrative built out of glossy slurps and focused peeps from the saxophonist as Nabatov collects cadenzas that push the melody forward. Without warning the narrative splinters into a sequence of racehorse tremolos from both men, reaching a climax of sharpened atonality expressed in Schubert’s sheets of sound and sweeping cadenzas from the pianist. With the intensity explored, the two return to respectful lick trading as they do elsewhere in on the disc.

Putting aside his saxophone for the pen, seven months later in the same city, Schubert’s nine orchestral compositions straddle the middle ground between influence salute and soloist showcase. Familiar with the skills of Multiple Joy [ce] Ensemble members, each piece appears specially tailored for its protagonist. At the same time Schubert is perceptive enough so that his salutes bring to light unexpected sides of the honorees. Case in point is “Anthonykowoski” With broken honks and bluesy brassiness from alto saxophone soloist Frank Gratkowski, Anthony Braxton’s links to the Free Jazz tradition are exposed and celebrated. Similarly “Frith Fields” dedicated to Fred Frith, allows guitar soloist Fields to play up his Rockiest licks, while distant horn puffs and piano clinks subvert their spikiest qualities. The engagingly pastoral qualities of Holger Werner’s contralto clarinet trills on “Boulevinsky” contradict the austere acidity associated with dedicatees Igor Stravinsky and Pierre Boulez.

On the other hand “Duke Muche”, celebrating Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, uses Matthias Muche’s open-horn trombone spits plus Hübsch’s sweetened tuba blats to reaffirm Ducal Jazz roots at the same time as it suggests possible so-called European concert music links. Additionally, violinist Axel Lindner’s shaking sul ponticello swipes and Phillip Zoubek’s frosty piano clinks on “Ende der Zeit” confirm the hard, so-called New music overlay of Olivier Messiaen’s sounds.

Distributing lead roles among nearly all orchestra members, Schubert has come up with a well-balanced program worthy frequent investigations. More experimental in its timbral examination, the Nabatov-Schubert duo keeps its equilibrium through the instrumental mastery of the two men. In retrospect there appears to be more disengagement among the three members of Lurk Lab as the trio tries to fasten together disparate sonic concepts. An early effort in the trio’s life, adhesion has probably taken shape by now.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Lurk: 1. Basement Botanics 2. Spot The Dotter 3. Wash Me Two Times 4. 1000g Family 5. Blop Club

Personnel: Lurk: Matthias Schubert (tenor saxophone); Jörg Fischer (drums) and Uli Böttcher (live electronics)

Track Listing: 9: 1. Conlon Zoubeck 2. Moose 3. Anthonykowoski 4. Duke Muche 5. Frith Fields 6. Boulevinsky 7. Ende der Zeit 8. Akkordstudie 9. John Muller.

Personnel: 9: Udo Moll (trumpet); Matthias Muche (trombone); Carl Ludwig Hübsch (tuba); Holger Werner (clarinet); Frank Gratkowski (alto saxophone); Angelika Sheridan (flute); Phillip Zoubek (piano); Axel Lindner (violin); Scott Fields(guitar); Elisabeth Fügemann (cello) and Sebastian Gramss (bass)

Track Listing: Descriptions: 1. Insistence 2. Discretion 3. Enhancement 4. Delusion 5. Enrichment 6. Expansion 7. Obliqueness 8. Inhibition 9. Brashness 10. Accordance

Personnel: Descriptions: Matthias Schubert (tenor saxophone) and Simon Nabatov (piano)