August 29, 2017
And His Friends
MPS Records 0211961MSW
Rüdiger Carl Inc.
King Alcohol (New Version)
Corbett vs. Dempsey CvsD CD 032
Only about 2½ years separate the improvisations on these reissued CDs from one another. But like examining Russian society just before and shortly after the 1917 Soviet revolution, the contours of two distinct musical cultures are in play.
When the six duets that make up And His Friends was recorded in 1968-1969, Albert Mangelsdorff (born 1928) was probably the best known German trombonist, if not the best-known German Jazz musicians, of his time. Having mastered modern Jazz with his famous quintet of the 1960s, by late in that decade the Frankfurt-born player was investigating multiphonic solo playing, worked with the Globe Unity Orchestra and within a couple of years would record extensively with the likes of tenor saxophonist Peter Brötzmann, pianist Fred van Hove and drummer Han Bennink.
With unbridled energy that cast Mangelsdorff’s sophisticated tone investigations in the position of being Menshevik cant compared to their Bolshevik-like rhetoric, the trio on 1972’s King Alcohol was fully committed to Free Jazz. Plus each – tenor saxophonist Rüdiger Carl (born 1944), trombonist Günter Christmann (born 1942) and drummer Detlef Schönenberg (born 1944) – was a generation younger than the trombonist and had gone through the 1968 social upheavals that redefined many German conventions.
As can be expected from someone slotted into hierarchy of any list of trombonists, Mangelsdorff’s brass command from dot-dash-like single notes to emotive gutbucket-like smears is confirmed throughout the CD. But in choice of duet partners he’s like an Edwardian gent circa 1919, having to coexist with both established Victorians and those with post-Great War experience. The latter include three players crucial to the development of post-New Thing Jazz. Cornetist Don Cherry was part of the initial turn to Free Jazz. On “I Dig It - You Dig It” not only does he nudge the trombonist past his comfort zone with twisted tonal tangents, but he does so in a nursery rhyme-like elaboration suggested by composer Terry Riley. Employing split tones, timbral curves and extended slide blasts the trombonist complements the swinging clatter pop of drum master Elvin Jones on “My Kind of Time”. Although ending in perfect harmony, Mangelsdorff’s yelping slurs add ballast to the graceful plinking from Karl Berger’s vibraharp on “Way Beyond Cave”, appearing to be improvising more “outside” than the vibist who helped define Jazz’s parameters with him Creative Music Studio.
Other tracks are most problematic. Pianist Wolfgang Dauner (born 1935), later known for his work in the United Jazz and Rock Ensemble takes “My Kind of Beauty” too seriously, offering a snoozey output that despite trombone double tonguing remains earth-bound. As for alto saxophonist Lee Konitz on “Al-Lee” and guitarist Attila Zoller on “Outox”, both were born the year before Mangelsdorff, and both showed steadfast connection to then contemporary Jazz styles. The brass player’s growling asides don’t dissuade Konitz from evoking the somber mellowness he had specialized in for nearly a quarter century at that point and continues to do so today. As for the guitarist, hearing such obvious Swing-Bop arpeggios in this context is off-putting enough, while Mangelsdorff’s palpable attempts at tougher counterpoint are futile, leading to pleasant improvisations in every sense of the word..
In retrospect the four selections on the original issue of King Alcohol are shocking only if you’re unfamiliar with the breakthrough to Free Music spearheaded a decade earlier by Ornette Coleman, Cherry’s most famous musical associate, and John Coltrane, in whose quartet Jones made his mark. The Rüdiger Carl texture-shattering, near-atonal program though was actually post-Trane, post-Ornette and on the level of the bustling commotion that characterized the work of Brötzmann and Albert Ayler. It isn’t called Energy Music for nothing. Without the reductionist influence of any chordal instrument the trio was able to begin playing with dyspeptic savageness and become more discordant as the sounds become more fortissimo. While most of the time the three operate like equally matched pacers harnessed to the same sulky, for variety duos are created with the drummer and trombonist trading licks like Phil Wilson and George Lewis and saxophonist and trombonist suggesting Archie Shepp’s combos with Rosewell Rudd. On his own “Thrombose” and elsewhere, the brass command of Christmann, who also can play cello and double bass, provides the plausible augmentation of Mangelsdorff’s ideas. Triple-tonguing and slurring microtones he moves among the bites and bluster of Carl’s saxophone to the extent that they appear to be opposite sides of one coin. Schönenberg’s rebounds and ruffs appear to come as much from wood blocks and cow bells as cymbals or rims and are expressed with a Bennink-like ferocity. Yet brass lows and bell ping are shaped into a tonal exercise by the finale.
Original takes on the Free Jazz concept involves each trio member, who at this point were easily the equal of their American counterpoints, in ideas and execution. With the results as febrile and sinewy as they are sibilant, nearly every tone is matched, commented on and moved forward. In fact “Trio Trip”, the third part of the final track climaxes with the drummer’s free-handed exuberance reaching level that makes the sound seem to pan across the speakers like a Cinemascope camera, leading to an appreciative few seconds of silence until Carl and Christmann explode as if to make up for lost time.
“King Alcohol’ is a case unto itself. One of those pieces that appear nearly endless with each player pushing, pulling and propelling as much intensity as to appear almost proto-human climax after climax is isolated and displayed, then a miasma of brass whinnies, irregular reed vibrations and repeated percussion pumps pickup and lead to nearly limitless climaxes. The enigmatic subtitle “King Alcohol (New Version)” makes sense with the second CD consisting of seven alterative versions of the title tune lasting from barely 4½ minutes to almost 16. The LP version was a little more than 11½ minutes. Like earlier drafts of a novel, each of alternatives can be listened to intently, with one concentrating more on hocketing and horking tones from the tenor saxophone, another tailgate stutters from the trombone, others more harmonic, others more atonal.
Each of these sessions is valuable. Mangelsdorff’s to see how a master player was working to adapt new ideas, and Rüdiger Carl’s to preserve a masterwork of defining German Free Jazz trio.
Track Listing: Friends: 1. I Dig It - You Dig It 2. My Kind of Time 3. Way Beyond Cave 4. Outox 5. Al-Lee 6. My Kind of Beauty
Personnel: Friends: Albert Mangelsdorff (trombone – all tracks); Don Cherry (cornet – track 1); Lee Konitz (alto saxophone – track 5); Wolfgang Duaner (piano – track 6); Karl Berger (vibraharp – track 3); Attila Zoller (guitar – track 4); Elvin Jones (drums – track 2)
Track Listing: Alcohol: CD1: 1. King Alcohol 2. Thrombose 3. AEIOU 4. a) Rush Hour, b) Something, c) Trio Trip CD2: 1. KA ALT #1 2. KA ALT #2 3. KA ALT #3 4. KA ALT #4 5. KA ALT #5 6. KA ALT #6 7. KA ALT #7
Personnel: Alcohol: Günter Christmann (trombone); Rüdiger Carl (tenor saxophone) and Detlef Schönenberg (drums)