Heal the Rich
WhyPlayJazz RS026

Defined by its accommodating title members of the Danish-German quartet here are aiming for a level playing field – in many ways – rather than an imminent overthrow of the moneyed. Yet like many European Socialist governments which effected social and economic reforms without institutional upset, Field’s relaxed, but not enervated program creates forefront timbral extension without resorting to radical or blustering practices.

Composer of all eight tracks, Berlin-based tenor saxophonist Uli Kempendorff not only arranged the performances with muted Clement Atlee-like coherence but plays throughout in an off-handed Cool Jazz-like tone. Harmonically allied with the others, his sometimes drowsy narrative is just a pose and his composing and direction can reorient the performances with the speed of an aroused Gila monster. Kempendorff has worked with the likes of pianist Ulrich Gumpert, and clarinetist Rudi Mahall, while drummer Oliver Steidle has also worked with Mahall, saxophonist Peter Brötzmann and in other collectives with Ronny Graupe, guitarist in this session. Danish bassist Jonas Westergaard plays in another trio with Graupe as well as yet other formations with drummer Christian Lillinger.

Like West Coast rhythm sections of the 1950s, Steidle and Westergaard are adaptable here, unselfconsciously keeping the bottom balanced and sinuous. Even when the drummer speeds up the tempo, as he does in the final, section of “Sehr Nüchtern”, he does so subtly, that attention doesn’t shift from Graupe’s tone and volume that has already doubled down to harmonize with the saxophonist’s obtuse spetrofluctuation. In the same way if Steidle’s drumming becomes more intense during the stop-time elaboration of the introductory “Drehtürwalzer”, it hardly detracts from the assertive narrative built up from Kempendorff’s slurry reed rasps.

Moving at times among tremolo crunches (“Kitz”) and a chiming ostinato (“3 Halbe”), Graupe’s asides are never disruptive and always in context. Most of the time a parallel could be imagined between his interaction with the saxophonist and a couple of good friends. Conversations can ratchet up in toughness and speed, but the basic partnership is anticipated and responsive. A perfect instance of this is described by the title of “You Don’t Have to Win Me Over” and the follows through. With the romantic melody expressed as Kempendorff’s breathy tone reflects the lightness of Stan Getz or Charles Lloyd, he and the guitarist’s particular intimacy is expressed by languid sensuality, but never loses the essence of swing.

Paramount in its unforced musical sophistication, Heal the Rich is one Field trip many will want to take.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Drehtürwalzer 2. Aggressively Loving It 3. Kitz 4. Sehr Nüchtern 5. 3 Halbe 6. You Don’t Have to Win Me Over 7. Versuchs Doch 8. Drehtürwalzer Reprise

Personnel: Uli Kempendorff (tenor saxophone); Ronny Graupe (guitar), Jonas Westergaard (bass) and Oliver Steidle (drums)