January 21, 2016
Reflecting her Janus-like preoccupations with both notated and improvised music are the sounds on qui-pro-quad-dis, in which Köln-base cellist Elisabeth Fügemann negotiates the separations and connections that inform the two. Although academically trained in so-called classical and Jazz cello, her writing and playing reflects a contemporary European take that appreciates both traditions but ignores their obvious formulae.
Fügemann, who also plays with guitarist Scott Fields and as part of the Multiple Joy [ce] Orchestra has also chosen an unconventional format for her recorded debut. Initially emiBatett was a chamber trio of the cellist, bassist Robert Landfermann, who has worked with pianist Simon Nabatov and saxophonist Frank Gratkowski and trombonist Matthias Muche of the Timeart Ensemble, But to suffuse the CD’s 10 tracks with auxiliary colors, added to the band are Philip Zoubek, an associate of bassist Wilbert deJoode and others, on prepared piano, and Etienne Nillesen, who in such bands as OGU has elaborated a manner of working with prepared snare drum and cymbals.
While the quintet is organized like committed astronomers probing space for unexpected planetary fissures, the extended techniques of clanks, pulls, lurches, warbles and raps are secondary to connections. The middle section of “Fragmente” for instance unites swinging bass thumps, dynamic cello sweeps and melismatic trombone burr into a near-Dixieland romp. That intermezzo follows a string clipping summation made up of clanking cello and keyboard motifs. Like an argument among empirical scientists, the atmospheric “Upper Structure” illustrates another (musical) theory. As languid as some other tracks are spirited, reed-like whistling and puffing arise from unexpected sources as Zoubek, and Fügemann begin outputting themes at contradictory pitches, as if radios tuned to different music were playing at the same time. Muche’s grace notes mediate between the two finally pushing them into a finale connected by resilient arpeggios. Elsewhere realized melodies fluidly lean in one direction or the other. For example, the bassist and cellist frequently create sul ponticello asides which vibrate like taunt rubber bands. Just as decisively calming therapy dog-like grace notes from the trombonist and celesta-like euphony from the pianist create a moderato continuum.
While there are undoubtedly extemporized elements on the other tracks, many described as Fügemann’s compositions, it’s the almost 12½-minute rather obviously titled “Outro”, which is labeled a free improvisation, and is seemingly designed as a summation of the session. Low frequency and deliberate the narrative unrolls in sections, with the players like quiz show contestants providing their guesses at the answer, and then moving aside for the next challenger. With double bass tonal growls and drum beat stutters serving as the continuum, initial whining string strops eventually join Zoubek unexpectedly romantic-styled interlude and faint hunting horn-like emphasis from Muche to reach a climax of spiky mellowness that appropriately reflects all the preceding sounds.
Although the tracks here may suffer from an inability to fully define them as either musical fish or fowl, Fügemann and emiBatett have produced and individualized program worth following.
Track Listing: 1. F-I-S 2. Fragmente 3. Quinten Im Quintet 4. Duo 5. Kugel 6. Granulat 7. Upper Structure 8. Quinten Im Trio 9. F-I-Sch 10. Outro
Personnel: Matthias Muche (trombone); Philip Zoubek (prepared piano); Elisabeth Fügemann (cello); Robert Landfermann (bass) and Etienne Nillesen (prepared snare drum and cymbals