Christiane Bopp

Noyau de lune

Andreas Schickentanz

Stories from the Crooked Path

JazzHaus Musik JHM 264 CD

By its shape, pitches and tones that are half-clownish and half-calm, the trombone, especially in solo mode, seems to call out to become a vehicle for improvisation. A few slide-pumpers like Albert Mangelsdorff and George Lewis have created notable sessions; and on the evidence here, Andreas Schickentanz from Germany and Christiane Bopp from France have taken up the challenge.

Each approaches the program in a distinctive manner, which reflects their backgrounds. Schickentanz is a Dortmund-native, whose experience is with ensemble such as the Cologne Contemporary Jazz Orchestra and the JazzStation Big Band. Using electronic add-ons he strives to produce 15 specialty brass sounds. Affiliated with Dominique Pifarély, Marc Ducret and interdisciplinary projects, Bopp uses diverted mutes, paper clip tips and her voice to form sequences. But the feeling is that the improvisational impulse is primary, with the exact instrumentation secondary.

Considering she teaches and has been a member of the Orchestra National de Jazz, Bopp is obviously no trombonist manqué as she demonstrates on “Giyani”. Complete with an open horn exposition tempered with secondary cries and slurps, she maintains a mellow narrative alongside distinctive call-and-response vibrations, ending with gravelly diminuendo growls. Contrast that with the subsequent “Captif Des Murmures” where lower-case timbres are sourced from tiny slide movement and mouthpiece warbles as flutter tonguing climaxes with vamps transformed into low-pitched shudders and slurps.

That’s the strategy followed throughout the CD’s seven selection with stress put on watery swells using plunger mutes, sputtering grace notes, penetrating inner-tube whistles, brassy forcefulness and gruff upwards blasts. Often these discussions will all occur on one sequence; other times they’ll be sprinkled judicious among more conventional tone emphasis. Striking the instrument’s finished metal for instance, she produces tambourine-like rhythms, ending with growly snuffles on “Au Coeur du Nid du Herisson’ or swelling double timbres on the title track that woof or blast in two separate pitches. The final “L'ange aux Pantoufles De Vair” is the only comparatively weak exercise with lyrical air hummed through the horn’s body tube mixed with valve percussion and mouthpiece only squeaks, which seem to call for more sonic input from the entire instrument.

Hedging his bets with electronics, Schickentanz has produced an entire aural photo album of what the trombonist calls “snapshots”, capturing the ways in which the instrument’s sounds can be contorted. While at the top a certain laboratory-like cleanliness suffuses the exercise with, for example, signal-processed oscillations vying for the foreground with hunting-horn-like textures; or an upsurge in granular synthesis almost masking the challenges posed by mixing concentrated blasts and mouthpiece spits, he relaxes by “High Hopes amid Hard Times”, the third track. At that point, cross pulsations from electronics and plunger oscillations harden into a repetative rhythmic continuum infrequently broached by tone inflations or metal clatters.

Most characteristic of the trombonist’s cerebral skills occur on a mid-disk sequence like “Paragliding” and are even mixed with sly humor on “Printing” and “Paris”. On the first, granular pitch separation complete the narrative in such a way that variations of pitch and texture are soon highlighted among the organ-like continuum created by electronics. In a more jocular fashion, the sound of a laser printer going on line provide the backing for two separate trombone tones on “Printing”, one with capillary pushes and pops and the other with slithery high pitches. The climax encompasses see-sawing brass pushes alongside the sound of the printer spewing out paper. In a similar fashion, “Paris” begins with noises from that city’s metro train and stations mixed with a swinging brass exposition that soon melds double-tracked plunger tones from the trombones with the sounds of hissing brakes, train car movements and moving crowds. The finale somehow manages to suggest Rock-guitar-like flanges, positioned percussion and clinking drinking glasses.

Schickentanz’s skill is such that the electro-acoustic mix not only suggests guitar-string-shakes and drums chops and clanks on tracks such as “The End” – which actually isn’t the final tune – but some timbres that say trumpet not trombone. Pulsating, blurry, martial and dissonant when need be, it’s evident that even in the midst of solo experimentation the trombonist never forgets his mainstream and big band roots. There are melodic balladic upsurges on tracks such as “Parhelion” and others.

Solo playing doesn’t have to involve alienating experimentation as Schickentanz demonstrate son his disc. Yet both his and Bopp’s sessions demonstrate how satisfying a singular brass recital can be even if all tones arise from one sophisticated and tenacious soloist.

—Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Stories: 1. Heatwave 2. The Crooked Path 3. High Hopes Amid Hard Times 4. Parhelion 5. Gossip 6. Time 7. Flipside Overlap 8. Paragliding 9. Printing 10. Dream 11. Paris 12. Moon in My Room 13. The End 14. Billy the Kid 15. In Fading Light

Personnel: Stories: Andreas Schickentanz (trombone and electronics)

Track Listing: Noyau: 1. Premier Orage 2. Noyau de Lune 3. Ce Qui Brule 4. Au Coeur du Nid du Herisson 5. Gitane 6. Captif Des Murmures 7. L'ange aux Pantoufles De Vair

Personnel: Noyau: Christane Bopp (trombone, diverted mutes paper clip tips and voice)