Creative Sources CS 340 CD

Just because Julia Louis-Dreyfus is celebrated for her role as Elaine Benes on the Seinfeld TV series didn’t means that she wasn’t accepted as Selina Meyer on the show Veep. It’s the same with Paul Lovens. Sure the German drummer may be acclaimed as one-third of the long-running – 44 years and counting – Schlippenbach Trio, but he plays just as important a part in Paul Hubweber's PaPaJo, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year.

Showcased in concerts that took place when the trio had been together a mere two years (record one) and eight years (record two), this two-CD set shows that like Louis-Dreyfus talking another role PaPaJo doesn’t have to play proverbial second fiddle to any other aggregation. Unlike the Schlippenbach Trio’s piano-saxophone-drums configuration, it’s bull fiddle played by London’s John Edwards, which is one of PaPaJo’s most characteristic features. Ironically, Edwards has a long history with BritImprovisers such as saxophonist Evan Parker, who with Lovens makes up two-thirds of the Schlippenbach trio, along with pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach. In contrast, the other “Pa” in PaPaJo is idiosyncratic trombonist Paul Hubweber, who shares with Lovens the home town of Aachen.

Although initially conceived of as a vehicle for the trombonist, drummer and the late Peter Kowald, there’s no awkwardness in the interaction among this three, even as early as 2003. Starting with the almost 24½-minute showpiece “S C”, like the secondary characters on a sitcom added for variety but who become viewers’ favorites, Edwards rounded buzzes and lumberjack-string string smacks confirm group symmetry as much as Lovens’ hoof-beat-like patterns and the trombonist’s stentorian growls. Here and elsewhere sliding among mellow lip slurs, machinegun-like rapid brass bites and long-lined pseudo-tailgate echoing tones, Hubweber shakes loose unique chromatic tones that upset the others no more than to extemporize new dialogue during a broadcast would be for assured thespians.

That’s just the beginning of the synergy engendered by the three. A track such as “Sla Bamba” is seeded throughout with instances of almost textbook jazz-swing, while “Trobadus” like an alternate reading of a text is concerned with extended and advanced techniques. “Sla Bamba” suggests what would happen if a radical collectivist trope inserted itself into a straight drama as the trombonist adds near cornet-pitched flutters that are as lean as they are linear to an essentially two-beat exposition. Meanwhile “Trobadus” evolves in a Janus-like fashion with a section of unabashed swing via double bass slaps and metallic rim shots and woody pops from Lovens’ contrasting with a variety of experimental effects from all three. These include Hubweber growls that could emanate from an elongated garden hose; the drummer’s bell-pealing and triangle ping accents; and rugged up-and-down string pumps. The most dazzling instance of the bassist’s skill is on “T’ Guyz” where he builds up a section of spiccato and sul ponticello strokes that in squeakiness and speed mocks jester-like the leisurely output of the other two.

Record two is like the flash forward in a TV show that fleshes in character development. Revealing further richness to the PaPaJo partnership, Edwards overcomes his Bruce Johnson with the Beach Boys fill-in role to direct the improvisations as often as the two Germans. The introductory “Acart Beat” for example not only gains its initial shape from the bassist’s double-stropping into, but like the climatic point in a drama also shifts the piece towards systematic tonality half way through with woody string resonations. Before this, Hubweber juggles open-horn blats and muted dribbles with artisanal skill, as Lovens’ attributes likewise evolve from knocking pulses to a rhythmic two step. Other tracks such as “Donnalittchen” find the two Pauls emerging like a mythical two-headed beast. Slashing skin rumbles from the drummer plus low pitches that seem evacuated from renal positions evolve and echo simultaneously guided by Edwards’ perambulating twangs.

Although it doesn’t end the program, “Scratches ‘N Satches” is its climax with more than 23 minutes in which to demonstrate the virtuosic skill that had intensified over the preceding half-decade. Like lines in a triangle which must intersect in order to create an outline, each player’s strategy is carefully balanced. String slaps from Edwards meet equivalent ones from Lovens; and when Hubweber attains the zenith of a shrill snarl, that tone has the companionship of squeaking upper-range slashes from the bassist and chiming tones from the drummer’s cymbals. The tune ends strikingly but incongruously with Lovens smacking the sort of clip-clops expected from a stage coach nag as Hubweber sounds the heraldic brass tones that signaled the arrival of the post from some itinerant source.

More than being Lovens’ other trio Paul Hubweber's PaPaJo makes a powerful statement on its own. But considering the sessions here are from 2003 and 2009, there’s obvious need for a newer program.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Record 1: 1. S C 2. First Love 3. Trobadus 4. Sla Bamba Saw 5. T’ Guyz 6. Z’ Tks Record 2: 1. Acart Beat 2. Donnalittchen 3. Scratches ‘N Satches 4. Bamb Danca 5. Fin De

Personnel: Paul Hubweber (trombone and voice); John Edwards (bass) and Paul Lovens (drums and cymbals)