Meinrad Kneer Quintet

Oneirology
Jazzhaus Music JHM 238

Foils Quartet

The Jersey Lily

Creative Sources CS 270 CD

Two of Berlin’s most accomplished younger trombonists help pilot these two exemplary sessions. But like participants in a free-for-all race, the polarized strategy each ensemble evolves to reach its goal confirms the elastic adaptability of Free Music. A vehicle for the compositions of veteran German bassist Meinrad Kneer, Oneirology – the scientific study of dreams – showcases nine instances that certify that Kneer’s nocturnal musical imagination is at the same high level as his sentient playing. Dream interpreters here are trombonist Gerhard Gschlößl, who is actually Austrian; Canadian alto saxophonist Peter Van Huffel; and two fellow Germans, trumpeter Sebastian Piskorz and drummer Andreas Pichler.

As commendable during its two extended improvisations as Kneer’s Quintet is in elaborating a more structured form, is the Foils Quartet. Anything but preventative sounds, the band consists of four youngish Free Jazz veterans: trombonist Matthias Müller and soprano saxophonist Frank Paul Schubert from Germany and bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders from the United Kingdom.

Like trying to report on a hurricane while standing in the midst of one, following the ebb and flow of The Jersey Lily is an all-encompassing task as Schubert’s reed bites and split tones plus glossolalia temper and tear apart the narrative, concurrently moving beside exaggerated cries, melismatic pumps and segmented breaths from the trombone, as the bassist and drummer thump, thwack and resound to keep up. Much of the time Müller and Schubert play an elaborate game of sonic expression, sometimes in tandem, sometimes in opposition and at different pitches and speeds. While Edwards pulse in usually unshakable, listening closely reveals how Sanders cleverly restructures the rhythmic base to reflect the top layer. About one-third of the way through “Eddie’s Flower”, the massive, more-than-52 minute, lead improvisation, the nearly opaque interaction gives way to flatter, stringier passages where the horn players’ chess-like strategies are put into bolder relief. Müller output is breathier and more hollow, while Schubert’s ripostes are agitated enough to almost splinter into atomic particles. With the exposition threatening to dissolve into the realm of pure sound, slap bass and ferocious drum beats break through the vibrating convergence. Like orienteerers realizing that they’re struggling through a mountain path that calls for new strategies, the horn players reassert individual identities with the saxophonist’s output becoming more lyrical and the trombonist’s more blustery. As circular-breathed, high-pitched timbres from one and sprawling plunger growls from the other introduce a speedier interaction, occasional decorative comments from the rhythm section come to the fore, in the form of twanging bass lines and clean drum rumbles. Finally, as if the natural weather disruption has spent itself, all four gradually diminish their compulsive judders so that the track climaxes with expanded, then cut off individual echoes. Edwards’ strums make an effective coda and decisive ending. With the other track a briefer – less than 23½-minute – variation on the same theme, the key appreciating the improvising on The Jersey Lily is to go along with the flow.

Like Truman Capote’s measured prose compared to the sprawl of Jack Kerouac's writing, the Meinrad Kneer Quintet has a different aim than the Fossils Quartet: elaboration of multi-dimensional themes as well as solo virtuosity. The Jersey Lily flowered as a concentrated force of nature whereas Oneirology expresses the emotions engendered during night time imagination. Additionally Kneer’s vision is such that like jigsaw pieces fitting together to make a picture, the arrangement of the quintet’s parts is unimaginable without lining his playing to the others’. Tunes such as “Himmel & Hölle”, “Hau den Lukas” and “Aus dem wundersamen Leben der Salatgurke” may appear as if they’re going to be showpieces for Gschlößl, for instance. However the well-articulated melody of the first depends as much on Van Huffel’s biting reed cries and a waking bass line; the second has drum beats that harmonize with the trombonist’s repetative slurs; and the third propels its jiggly focus through the other horns with Gschlößl’s brass exploration excavating tuba-pitched tones and the climax a showdown between slippery trombone melisma and chunky double bass thumps.

At the same time while the CD is loaded with enough swing motifs and bouncy themes to satisfy anyone who demands bouncy melodies, Kneer’s compositions express other moods as well. Tough as any walking blues via arpeggiated double bass string bumps, “Open Book” modulates towards more wistful sentiments as the vivid horn-melding climaxes with tones both most and melancholy. A similar pensive tinge also appears on “Cherry”, though these magnified emotions, produced in lockstep by the other band members, tale on a cheerier tinge towards the finale with a magnificent display of sprayed textures from Piskorz. With Pichler adding cymbal clashes or drum rumbles and pumps when needed to shore up the arrangements, like a general a battle plan, Kneer has given every musician a part that intertwined makes for a memorable program.

Should your interest be unbridled blowing, careful theme elaboration or just plain high quality sounds, there’s much to attract you on both discs.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Oneirology: 1. Tautology 2. Himmel & Hölle 3. Open Book 4. Tre Palle Mille Lire 5. Cherry 6. Hau den Lukas 7. Lonely Weekend 8. City Fireflies 9. Aus dem wundersamen Leben der Salatgurke

Personnel: Oneirology: Sebastian Piskorz (trumpet); Gerhard Gschlößl (trombone); Peter Van Huffel (alto saxophone); Meinrad Kneer (bass) and Andreas Pichler (drums)

Track Listing: Jersey: 1. Eddie’s Flower 2. Amaryllis Belladonna

Personnel: Jersey: Matthias Müller (trombone); Frank Paul Schubert (soprano saxophone); John Edwards (bass) and Mark Sanders (drums)