December 3, 2019
Munich Rat Pack
FMR CD 454-0817
FMR CD 471-1117
From his base near Munich, multi-instrumentalist/architect Udo Schindler has for many years made it his business to disseminate freely improvised music through a series of local concerts and a lengthening list of recordings. Featuring Schindler plus a cross-section of advanced players from Germany and internationally these duos, trio and occasional larger ensembles demonstrate the challenges faced, and connections engendered, during these quick-thinking interactions.
Changing just one out of three players in a trio situation can result in a novel configuration as is demonstrated on these notable discs, recorded two years apart. Truthfully titled, Munich Rat Pack features three locals: trombonist Sebi Tramontana, Philipp Kolb, who plays trumpet, tuba and electronics, and Schindler playing different reeds and brass plus synthesizer. Tramontana, Schindler, this time playing clarinets, soprano saxophone and euphonium, plus Berlin’s Korhan Erel, whose computer controllers encompass real-time processing and sampled concrete sounds are the trio on SoundEnergyTransformation
Oscillating synthesis and signal processing are also present with the Rat Pack, as the ambidexterity of Tramontana, who has matched wits with everyone from Mario Schiano to Evan Parker supplying the only true acoustic interface. Not that his capillary patterns, which can involve flutter tonguing and inner throat gargling are commonplace though. On “Das Feuer Des Neuen” for instance, his Tricky Sam Nanton-like plunger slurs stand out alongside Schindler’s watery whistles and reed kisses and Kolb’s upward scaling machine-driven counterpoint. On the other hand, a track such as “Das Licht Erzittert” which depends on the crackling and warbling of electronics, is in actuality a mere backdrop to altissimo pitches from a clarinet harmonized with snorts, pops and tonguing from the trombone. Still elsewhere, as on “Das Ungewollte Aufbegehren”, the parameters of Schindler’s contrabass clarinet exposition widen as they move forward, scaling the pitches from the chalumeau to clarion register, as Kolb’s gentle trumpet notes and Tramontana’s slurry cries follow to a connective finale. This three-part acoustic showcase culminates in the extended final track, “Den Horizont Beobachten” as a series of slides and double tonguing from all outline a mellow, balladic exposition, Even Kolb’s subsequent tuba blasts and some meandering synthesizer trill don’t alter the mood.
If the Rats are acoustically oriented, then SoundEnergyTransformation’s 10 tracks depend on the programming of Erel, whose sound design has been utilized by the likes of David Rothenberg. The clanking granular synthesis, wiggling smacks and straddles from his programming are obvious as early as “Kapitaler Kugelfang” and “Gekauert In Das Zirpen”, the second and third tracks. In the first an exquisite duet between double tonguing trombone and altissimo whistling from the clarinet fail to connect with clanking synthesis and pseudo-strums from the computer. On the second, percussion equivalents from the machines powerfully resonate and almost subsume reed squeaks and the trombonist’s slurping vibrations.
While Tramontana’s collection of plunger slides and dot-dash brassiness make their presence felt elsewhere along with a reedy continuum from Schindler, a careful balance has to be maintained throughout to keep the acoustic tones from being constantly overpowered by the computerized instruments.
All the players involved here work to create a multi-faceted sound picture, and in both cases are doing more to advance musical exploration than any member of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack every did to popularize the Great American Songbook. But like a Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. live performance captured on disc, these trios suffer from equivalent weaknesses. While fascinating in parts, more prior planning and tougher sonic connections would be needed to create elevated programs.
Track Listing: Munich: 1. Das Fiebernde Ferment 2. Klang Des Wachsenden Grases 3. Das Feuer Des Neuen 4. Zum Licht Mit Seinen Gesaangen 5. Die Balustrade Aus Wind 6. Das Ungewollte Aufbegehren 7. Die Uberfulle Des Lichts 8. Mit Den Schwalben Ziehen 9. Die Rootung Des Himmels 10. Der Verlauf Des Laachelns 11. Das Licht Erzittert 12. Ein Paar Fetzen Mauer 13. Den Horizont Beobachten
Personnel: Munich: Philipp Kolb (trumpet, tuba, live electronics); Sebastiano Tramontana (trombone, voice, whistling) and Udo Schindler (clarinets, saxophones, cornet, euphonium, monophonic analogue synthesizer)
Track Listing: SoundEnergy: 1. Vehemenz-Traktat 2. Kapitaler Kugelfang 3. Gekauert In Das Zirpen 4. Horst Du Noch Irgendwas 5. Wird Welken Wie Gras 6. Augenblicke Der Auflosung 7. Litanei Nach Der Natur 8. Luftspiegelung 9. Ob Flugel Ob Vogel 10. Plotzliches Zuruck
Personnel: SoundEnergy: Sebastiano Tramontana (trombone); Udo Schindler (clarinets, soprano saxophone, euphonium) and Korhan Erel (computer, electronics)