|J A Z Z W O R D R E V I E W S
|Reviews that mention Martine Altenburger
Red Toucan RT 9344
Insub Meta Orchestra
Reductionist to the extreme, especially for those accustomed to the distributed colors of a symphony orchestra or the rhythmic flexibility of big Jazz band, these European ensembles both take as their strategy the movement and integration of timbres. Despite the 15 members of Köln-based Ensemble X or the 35 plus [!] participants in Geneva-based INSUB META Orchestra’s initiative, the idea is for each group of improvisers to move and sound like one entity. Equally challenging, the concept is designed so that each must contribute his or her particular tonal qualities at controlled volume and within a specific dynamic range. That these discs are as striking as they are is a testament to both the ensemble members’ cooperative skills as it is to the guidance of tubaist Carl Ludwig Hübsch, Ensemble X’s initiator on one hand, and the five Insub Meta Orchestra members who lead the conduction on different tracks of that CD.
Blending this collection of electro-acoustic impulses and quivers is most apparent on the Ensemble’s “X8”. With portentous bell-tolling and thickened bass drum rolling creating a firm foundation, massed spiccato strings inflate only to be interrupted by a snorting tuba tone, plunger trombone lines, burbling flute passages and what sounds like plastic items rolled on the ground. If the initial contributions are a bit distant, a solid line of electronic impulses and pressurized reed vibratos push the textures together alongside subtle percussion strokes, chuffed, sul ponticello strings and bird-like whistles. The ending is framed by smacked percussion plus astringent and irregularly vibrated reed parts.
Throughout the disc, sequences of harsh horn reflux brush up against grinding strings stretches and electronic buzzes managing to suggest dynamic indicators without moving the volume anywhere near fortissimo. “X111” finally reaches an accelerating plateau, replete with connective piano plinks, aviary reed twitters, string scratches and vibrating brass and reed timbres. Although still no louder than mid-range, the resulting polyphony paradoxically sounds more affiliated, if equally distant, attaining conclusive a climax before fading away.
Despite five of Archive #1’s six tracks being conductions by different ensemble members there’s a similar, detailed-oriented collectivity among them. This doesn’t mean that saxophonist Christophe Berthet, percussionist Rodolphe Loubatière, objects-manipulator d’incise, violinist Patricia Bosshard or spinet player Christoph Schiller – who is also featured with Ensemble X – hear things the same way, but that after only one year of concerts, a group ethos has developed.
Even more so than with the other group, the sheer number and multiples of players’ tones makes identification of individual contributions and sometimes distinctive instrumental timbres difficult to assess. Different velocities are more noticeable however, with, for instance, the Schiller-led “Punkte und Flächen” distinguished by regularized whacks from the percussionists; jittery air expelling from the horns; harsh plucks and bowing from the string players; and a wave-form undertow. Meanwhile Loubatière’s “Miroir” encompasses accordion trembles, reed squeaks and expostulations from vocalists who lip-bubble, yelp and shout intermittently. Here the kinetic electronic stasis takes the form of disconnected processing that isolates signals from one another, but eventually manages to decisively amalgamate oscillations. Sometimes as many legato as extended techniques are heard, but rubato timing and sinewy actions ensure that the distinctive friction is maintained throughout nearly every sequence.
“Set sail, finally”, which completes the program with a promise of future ensemble exploration manages to expose more polyphony and polyrhythms than the preceding tracks. With ring modulator-like clanging, signal-processed shimmies are upfront, while scuffed and angled string slicing plus horn peeps and percussion beats shrink backwards. As the vector subtly changes during the performance bel-canto warbling, gong smacking and an upward trumpet blast signal the piece’s crescendo. Then it gradually diminishes into rubs and drags.
Certainly theses discs are not CDs for anyone whose idea of large ensemble creation is defined by the Berlin Philharmonic, Duke Ellington’s orchestra or even Gil Evans palate mixing. Yet both the Insub Meta Orchestra and Ensemble X still suggest new strategies in which to fruitfully spread the ideas of utilizing pure improvisation among many players.
Track Listing: Archive: 1. Punkte und Flächen 2. Et si... 3. The living dust 4. Miroir 5. Lava underground 6. Set sail, finally
Personnel: Archive: Guy Bettini (trumpet); Denis Beuret (trombone); Christian Müller (contrabass clarinet); Christophe Berthet (soprano and alto saxophones); Ganesh Geymeier (tenor saxophone); Steve Buchanan (saxophone and electric guitar); Jamasp Jhabvala, Patricia Bosshard (violin); Hannah Marshall, Brice Catherin (cello); Florence Melnotte (keyboard); Jonas Kocher (accordion); Christoph Schiller (spinet); Nicolas Raufaste (acoustic guitar); Igor Cubrilovic (acoustic resonator guitar); Gérald Zbinden (acoustic and electric guitars); Fabrice Pittet (acoustic guitar, voice, percussion); Marcel Chagrin, Richard Jean (electric guitar); Vinz Vonlanthen (electric guitar, banjo); Ivan Verda (electric guitar, bouzouki); Brooks Giger, Dragos Tara (bass); Raphaël Ortis, Frédéric Minner (electric bass); Loïc Grobéty (piano strings and electric bass); Cyril Bondi (floor tom, cymbal); Rodolphe Loubatière, Filippo Provenzale (percussion); d’incise (objects); Simon Berz (DIY instruments, electronics); Thierry Simonot (electronics); Eric Ruffing (theremin, analog electronics); Thomas Peter (laptop); Gianluca Ruggeri (function generator); Olga Kokcharova (typewriter, voice); Edmée Fleury, Heike Fiedler (voice) and Antoine Läng (mouth)
Track Listing: Ensemble: 1. X113 2. X8 3. X112 4. X111
Personnel: Ensemble: Nate Wooley or Nils Ostendorf (trumpet); Matthias Muche (trombone); Carl Ludwig Hübsch (tuba); Xavier Charles and Markus Eichenberger (clarinets); Dirk Marwedel (extended saxophone); Angelika Sheridan (flutes); Eiko Yamada (recorders); Tiziana Bertoncini or Harald Kimmig (violin); Martine Altenburger (cello); Philip Zoubek (piano); Christoph Schiller (spinet); Nicolas Desmarchelier (guitar); Ulrich Phillipp (bass); Michael Vorfeld (percussion); Uli Böttcher (electronics) and Olivier Toulemonde (objects)
December 20, 2012
Vers L’île Paresseuse
Creative Sources CS 182 CD
Frédéric Blondy & DJ Lenar
Play Mauricio Kagel’s Ludwig van
Bolt BR POP02
Departures from the concentrated minimalism that characterizes the Hubbub quintet, his longest lasting musical affiliation, Paris-based pianist Frédéderic Blondy is involved with much different strategies on these releases.
Still in the Free Music zone, Vers L’île Paresseuse is atmospheric and wedded to acoustic drones, with Blondy’s styling inside and outside the keyboard, is put to good use alongside the abrasive alto and soprano saxophone vibrations of Mulhouse’s Bertrand Gauguet and the alternately dissonant and legato stokes of Toulouse-based cellist Martine Altenburger.
Faux New music, Play Mauricio Kagel’s Ludwig van, is an off-the-wall homage to the Argentinean composer`s black-and-white film and another movie about deaf-blind people by Werner Herzog. Here Blondy’s pinpoint pianism is interspaced among audio snippets from the projections, including portentous lectures, pre-recorded music, and other vocal and instrumental tones sourced and mutated on the audio track by Warszawa, Poland-based DJ Lenar.
Undefined oscillations and drones which could arise from any instrument – or all or none – characterize the trio disc which exposes five tracks of polyphonic and phantasmagorical themes. Initially undifferentiated drones, as the pieces evolve the opaqueness gradually pull back to highlight individual instrumental textures. What seemed dense, concentrated and contrapuntal on “La montagne ne porte pas les nuages” for instance is eventually isolated as concentrated blows and pressurized plucking on minutely prepared internal piano strings; effusive shakes or wide kazoo-like blats from the reedist and wood-scratching as well as sul ponticello string swipes from the cellist.
Alternations between lyrical and jarring characterize the entire disc. On the climatic “Hypnotiseé sur une arête”, for instance, a continuum of carefully measured chording from Blondy turns into plucks and clanks on the strings as what was a delicate line from Gauguet becomes friction-laden, while Altenburger’s modulated bowing turns spiccato. At the same time a romantic undertone appears from the cellist’s mellow judders and the pianist’s legato keyboard note clusters. Only the saxophonist remains defiantly mercurial, with loud split tones, narrowed squeaks and final vibrating tongue slaps.
With the resonance on the final track barely-there, the trio’s definitive statement appears on the title track when concentrated sleight-of-hands leads the three to replicate electronic pulses acoustically. Made up in equal parts of reed whistles and metal rubs, angled string pulls from the cellist and rough rumbles and smacks against the piano’s wood by Blondy, at the end these faux oscillations give way to a cumulative rapprochement of balanced key clips, tongue stops and spiccato string swipes.
As unabashedly electronic as the other disc is acoustic, Blondy’s and Lenar’s creation for a Warsaw art exhibit is one of those projects metaphorically involving sonic mirrors reflecting other sonic mirrors that show refractions from still more sonic mirrors. Over the course of 17 tracks, the French pianist maintains his individual method of pulling deepened tremolo echoes from the keyboard and couples them with unique timbres plucked, vibrated and stopped due to the items affixed to internal piano strings. At the same time the DJ is mutating streams of pre-recorded audio into granularized pulses following primary identification. Among the sounds processed into abstraction are string sections and a piano soloist each playing romantic Beethoven themes; the sounds of clacking typewriters; undifferentiated children’s voices murmuring; different speakers – both pretentious and conversational – discussing theories about Beethoven’s music and other subjects, mostly in German.
Besides a selection which contrasts the music itself with a verbalized musicological hypotheses about it; other effective DJ transmutation include modulating and sharpening a lyric soprano’s tones into musical atoms; interrupting a pastoral musical interlude with the scrape of a needle against a bare turntable plus rainstorm sounds; and turning piano pumping into a unbroken drone.
The most effective communication between the DJ and Blondy occurs on a couple of tracks mid-way through the installation. Ending with percussion samples of mallets whacked against unyielding bowls, the interface contrasts the live pianist’s percussive glissandi with a recorded snippet of a Beethoven melody. Quickly enough the sample is reproduced at a different speed and then transformed into backwards running flanges, while the pianist’s precise playing remains.
A further refinement with contemporary electronic processes patches and mixes, Play Mauricio Kagel’s Ludwig van adds an additional sardonic layer – and other sounds – to what was already a burlesque of snobby classicism. For that reason the CD is fascinating listening. Similarly, Vers L’île Paresseuse captures three experienced improvisers at the top of their respective forms creating notable sounds that can’t be repeated.
Track Listing: Vers: 1. La montagne ne porte pas les nuages 2. Dans les plis du vent 3. Vers L'ile Paresseuse 4. Hypnotiseé sur une arête 5. Enclave nocturne et transitoire
Personnel: Vers: Bertrand Gauguet (alto and soprano saxophones); Frédéric Blondy (piano) and Martine Altenburger (cello)
Track Listing: Play: 1. The Key. A Shattering Story of Otto Tomek and his Companions (Musicologists) 2. The Table. Old, Exotic and Electric 3. The Locker. Him with Anecdotes 4. The Wall. One Page May 5. The Treadle. Edited without Sound 6. The Stand. Without Destroying his Property 7. The Movie. Beethoven is Modern 8. The Chair. Not a Rumba (Cuban) 9. The Needle. Whole as well as Speed 10. The Window. Enhancing Banality or Pedestrian Allusions 11. The Angel. Beethoven House Invented at Liberty 12. The Chair. Not a Rumba (Catalan) 13. The Frame. At Each Blur 14. The Movie. Spectator Beethoven (Bamsterdam) 15. The Deaf. Abolition by No Means 16. The Wheel. Opportunity to Execute
17. The Board. Largo in D minor from the Fifth Piano Trio, Op. 70 No. 1 in D major
Personnel: Play: Frédéric Blondy (piano) and DJ Lenar (turntables)
April 16, 2012
Lawrence D. “Butch” Morris
Nu Bop Records CD 09
Positions and Descriptions
Clean Feed CF 230 CD
By Ken Waxman
For the past 20-odd years as “Butch” Morris has demonstrated conduction: structuring free improvisation using a specific series of hand gestures, many improvising ensembles have been created in his its wake. Whether groups use or not signals developed by Morris to rearrange and sculpt notated and non-notated music, conduction is part of their inventory. As these releases demonstrate however, it depends on individual musicians’ skills for a performance to be fully satisfying.
This is apparent on Verona, collecting two Morris-directed conductions from 1994 and 1995. While both involve 11-piece ensembles, the instrumentation in 1995 makes it more satisfying. The three parts of “Verona Skyscraper” vibrate with a lyrical exposition and juddering intensity that upstages the five parts of “The Cloth” from 1994. As two percussionists, a guitarist and two pianists stretch, smack and crunch a pulsating ostinato, distinctive solo interludes interrupt the cacophonous friction. Bill Horvitz’s guitar plinks are contrapuntally paired with one pianist’s key clipping or the aggression of the rhythm section is muted by Stefano Benini’s legato flute tone or contralto wisps from Marco Pasetto’s clarinet. Throughout, Zeena Parkins’ harp plinks are lyrical with a hard edge. As the massed instrumental textures quiver continuously, the stand out soloist is J.A. Deane on trombone and electronics. His braying plunger work cuts through harmonized woodwind extensions or the layered friction of piano strumming cadenzas. Eventually the full-force instrumental bubbles to a crescendo, then ebbs to signal the finale by shrinking to triangle pings and guitar plinks.
Although Deane also solos on “The Cloth”, the minimalist quivers predominating from dual cello string shimmies, low-frequency piano chording and gaunt oboe tones make the themes overly precious. When the downward pinches of Parkins’ harp stand out as disruptively staccato, the textural sameness of the other textures becomes apparent. Luckily by the time the carol-like “Omega” is played, sul ponticello strokes from the celli, and whacks from Le Quan Ninh’s percussion join barking trombone guffaws to angle at least this piece towards concluding excitement.
Flash forward 12 years and bassist/composer Simon H. Fell’s Positions and Descriptions owes as much to juxtaposition as conduction, although Steve Beresford s on hand to bring conduction clues to the 16-piece ensemble. The nine-movement suite is described as “a compilation … incorporating composed, pre-recorded and improvised elements”. With the pre-recorded sequences at a minimum, the tension engendered is between the composition’s notated and free-form sections. Early in the suite Tim Berne’s mercurial saxophone lines create free jazz interludes abetted by drummer Mark Sanders’ rim shots. Later, a chamber ensemble of clarinet and strings echo ornate textures as glockenspiel, vibes and bells jingle contrapuntally and a tubax burps. From a jazz standpoint, “Movt. III” is the most exhilarating track, with Sanders’ bass drum accents and Fell’s pumping strings leading the band though a vamp reminiscent of Count Basie’s 16 men swinging. In counterpoint clarinettist Alex Ward produces reed-biting shrieks and trumpeter Chris Batchelor brassy slurs. Before a cacophonous ending, pianist Philip Thomas and violinist Mifune Tsuji output a faux-schmaltzy tango. Preceding and following this, harp glissandi and baroque-styled trumpet maintain the composition’s formalistic aspects. Fell makes jokes as well. “Plusieurs Commentaires de PB pour DR [Description 5]” described as a “mini concerto for baritone saxophone”, only features the horn’s distinctive snorts when introducing the following “Movt. V”. Before that the piece involves flute whistles, piano key percussion and half-swallowed saxophone tongue slaps. The concluding “Movt. V” gives guitarist Joe Morris a dynamic showcase for kinetic string snaps. At the same time Fell has orchestrated sequences in which staccato string vibrations, woodwind smears and horror-movie quivers from the electronics arrive in sequence. Taken adagio, the finale involves every musician creating snarling dissonance.
Whether that last sequence actually involved conduction, giving top-flight soloists their head is evidentially as good a guarantee of quality music as theory.
Tracks: Positions: Movt. I [Positions 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, 1:4; Who’s the Fat Man? [Description 1]; Movt. II [Position 5]; FZ pour PB [Description 2]/Commentaire I de “FZ pour PB” [Description 3]; Movt. III [Positions 6-9]; Graphic Description 4; Movt. IV [Position 10]; Plusieurs Commentaires de PB pour DR [Description 5]; Movt. V [Positions 11-17]
Personnel: Positions: Chris Batchelor: trumpet; Jim Denley: piccolo, concert, alto and bass flutes; Andrew Sparling: Eb, Bb and bass clarinets; Alex Ward: Bb clarinet; Tim Berne: alto saxophone; Damien Royannais: baritone saxophone, Eb tubax; Mifune Tsuji: violin; Rhodri Davies: harps; Philip Thomas: piano and celesta; Joe Morris: guitar; Simon H. Fell: bass and electronics; Philip Joseph: theremin; Mark Sanders: drums; Joby Burgess: percussion; Steve Beresford: electronics and conduction; Clark Rundell: conductor
Tracks: Verona: Conduction No. 43: The Cloth; Via Talciona; Dust to Dust (part 1); Omega; Long Goodbye / Conduction No. 46: Skyscraper Mutiny; Crossdresser; Testament
Personnel: Verona: Conduction No. 43: J.A. Deane trombone/electronics; Mario Arcari: oboe; Riccardo Fassi and Myra Melford: pianos; Brandon Ross: guitar; Bryan Carrot: vibraphone; Stephano Montaldo: viola; Martin Schutz and Martine Altenburger: cello; Zeena Parkins: harp; Le Quan Ninh: percussion/Conduction No. 46: J.A. Deane trombone/electronics; Stefano Benini : flute; Marco Pasetto: clarinet; Francesco Bearzatti: bass clarinet; Rizzardo Piazzi: alto saxophone; Riccardo Massari and Myra Melford: pianos; Bill Horvitz: guitar; Zeena Parkins: harp; Carlo “Bobo” Facchinetti: drums; Le Quan Ninh: percussion
--For New York City Jazz Record January 2012
January 5, 2012