July 26, 2016
Uwe Oberg/Silke Eberhard
Leo Records CD LR 749
Red Toucan # RT 9351
Quietly and without having to move to Berlin, Germany’s improvised music capital, Wiesbaden-based pianist Uwe Oberg has slowly established a reputation. No dogmatic regionalist, Oberg travels and participates in projects outside his city, including the descriptively named Lacy Pool and bands with the likes of Paul Lovens and Evan Parker Besides that the pianist welcomes challenges from different sized groups. Turns for instance is an 11-track duo with Berlin-based clarinetist and alto saxophonist Silke Eberhard encompassing material by Carla Bley, Annette Peacock, Jimmy Giuffre and some originals. As separate from the other session as the Ruhr valley is from Bavaria, Rope is an out-and-out Free Jazz excursion pairing the pianist with out-of-town peers: Berlin soprano saxophonist Frank Paul Schubert; Amsterdam bassist Wilbert de Joode and London drummer Mark Sanders.
Like political coalitions that govern effectively despite seeming differences, the members of the mixed EU crew on the quartet disc are given enough Rope so that they can hang a series of distinctive improvisations on this prototypical grouping. Sanders has worked with everyone from saxophonists John Butcher to Chares Gayle; de Joode with stylists as different as drummer Han Bennink and pianist Achim Kaufmann; while Schubert associates range from veteran pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach to his contemporary, trombonist Matthias Müller.
Other, shorter tracks are devoted to showcasing individual stylistic tricks. They include the drummer’s ability to pull many tones besides the usual clapping resonations from his wood blocks, the saxophonist outlining shallow, yet moderated line on “Skipper” and the pianist displaying harp-like tremolo coloration on the final piece. But like the cinematic blockbuster which overshadows the shorts and coming attractions surrounding it, “Drifter”, the nearly 35½-minute opening salvo is a picture-perfect portrait of ecstatic Jazz, European division. Taut searching and scratching from the piano’s inner strings and de Joode’s bass strings create a delicate sonic over garment that adds detailing to Schubert’s specially tailored crying resonations, that after a flurry of staccato raunchiness, settle into a moderato theme examination. Contrasting primitivist reed snarls with shaped, so-called classical-oriented patterning from the piano, Schubert and Oberg create the necessary tension and relief to propel the piece forward. Managing to be both formal and swinging, the piece climaxes after Sanders’ unassuming shuffle beat gives way to metal rim shots, creating a connective and relaxed ending. Violin-like pinched pacing from de Joode highlights a coda that references both the experimental and conventional underpinning of the album.
With its plethora of shorter compositions, Turns is the more conventional album. But like movie makers who find new angles to emphasize when re-filming classic material, Oberg and multi-reedist Eberhard put a new spin on tunes that in the main were composed 40 or 50 years ago. Another indication of their skills is how their originals cause no ripples when floating next to the American composed tracks. You can hear this most clearly on “Syndrome - Narrow Window”, that couples the Bley-composed line with an Oberg original. More than an extension of the first tune, “Narrow Window” takes its long-form intensity and breaks it down into narrow tones separated by pauses.
Eberhard’s extended clarinet shrills give an outside edge to other tunes such as “Batterie”. Yet even with her tone at its thinnest, the reedist avoids screech and always manages to expose the theme at the top or when exiting. Introduced in unison with sympathetic piano chording, Eberhard’s deconstruction of Guiffre’s “Emphasis” allows for a full examination of the melody which is treated with the respect due to a modern classic. Meanwhile Peacock’s “Mr. Joy” becomes narrow and astringent with saxophone peeps and disconnected key tinkling coming to the fore until it’s redefined as a soothing ballad. Instructively Eberhard’s suspended blowing that completes the CD’s final tune matches a similar sound that begins her “Ping Pong Pogo”, the CD’s opening track.
The duo with Eberhard shows the pianist’s notable skill interpreting existing material. The quartet confirms that he’s also as comfortable in a free music situation. Like a character actor Oberg demonstrates his versatility in many roles, suggesting he should be involved in many more productions to demonstrate it.
Track Listing: Turns: 1. Ping Pong Pogo 2. King Korn 3. Emphasis 4. Enzym & Eros (Var.2) 5. Both 6. Syndrome - Narrow Window 7. Batterie 8. Scootin' About 9. Roomer's Loot 10. Sketch No. 5 11. Mr. Joy
Personnel: Turns: Silke Eberhard (alto saxophone and clarinet) and Uwe Oberg (piano)
Track Listing: Rope: 1. Drifter 2. Skipper 3. Over
Personnel: Rope: Frank Paul Schubert (soprano saxophone); Uwe Oberg (piano); Wilbert de Joode (bass) and Mark Sanders (drums)