Derek Plays Eric

February 7, 2024

A Suite of Soaps and other assorted sceneries
Jazzwerkstatt JW 236

Klanggalerie GG 4448

Reinventing the Jazz guitar, bass and drums trio isn’t an easy task. But two Berlin based ensembles are trying just that. Consisting of experienced improvisers each approaches the standard configuration with radically different strategies. Refining its synthesis of sounds related to the middle ground between Derek (Bailey) and Eric (Clapton), the eponymous-named group touches on modal, folk, Rock and free music motifs in its 12-track, sometimes song-oriented program. Stretching out on four extended tracks, the Puna trio members manipulates and expands free music paradigms to their advantage.

Known for work with everyone from Alvin Curran to Urs Leimgruber, Derek Plays Eric guitarist Andreas Willers is joined by bassist Jan Roder, a charter member of Die Enttäuschung, and Tru Cargo Service  drummer Christian Marien. Meanwhile guitarist Olaf Rupp, has been in groups with Roder, among many others; bassist Meinrad Kneer has numerous discs with many including Ab Baars, while he and drummer Rudi Fischerlehner are part of Julie Sassoon’s quartet.

Beginning with chiming percussion, rubbed double bass tones, dissected guitar string squeals, group affiliations on Puna soon gallop into polyrhythms and multiphonics. As the electric guitar’s Rock-like voltage oscillations meet up with drum paradiddles and arco bass sweeps the gradually slowing result that sweeps across the sound field still adds melody hints alongside distended rim clips plus up and down the scale string jabs. Kneer’s subsequent thickened patterning preserves a Jazz-like continuum each time Rupp’s frails and flanges threaten to move the narrative towards more Rockist affiliations.

The concluding sequence manages to amplify and exemplify both parameters of the trio’s fusion. Cymbal scratches and piledriver, almost drum-machine-like pummeling from Fischerlehner and electrified higher-pitched chording from the guitarist eventually join with the bassist’s measured string ricocheting and stops for a group improv confirming the music’s horizontal evolution.

On A Suite of Soaps meanwhile Eric affiliations appear to overcome Derek ones this time out. When Willers and Roder both plug in their electric instruments triple treble lead guitar jabs and buzzing bass slithers move the three firmly towards Rock territory. However the accomplishment of the trio is that no matter how far the three venture into semi-Metal territory, bolstered by Marien’s backbeat, they can just as quickly introduce other sound motifs.

A track like “A Lame Excuse” is built around single note ascensions from the guitarist whose light-fingered twangs are warm and folksy. “Double Standards” is even more straight-ahead, with drum shuffles and pings creating almost textbook swing and Willers’ intricate lyricism firmly in the Barney Kessell-Herb Ellis groove. In other spots Roder’s carefully paced acoustic bass pulse is restrained, but powerful enough to connect floating guitar variations, cymbal splashes and the extra timbres from amp feedback.

The trio is also knowing enough to stretch a familiar pop tune like “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” with buzzing guitar riffs and clipping rim shots so that it’s almost deconstructed until the familiar head appears at intervals. This meld of the established and experimental reaches its zenith on “Cogs In Cogs (Empty Promise Broken)”, where Willers’s prominent barbed string frails and pulsations amp echoes operate enough in unison with drum pops and double bass thumps to maintain a kernel of melody among the sound timbral extrusions.

Linking guitar, bass and drums may be one of the most common creative music configurations, yet these trios demonstrate new ways to approach the connection.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Puna: 1. Puna 1 2. Puna 2 3. Puna 3 4. Puna 4

Personnel: Puna: Olaf Rupp (guitar); Meinrad Kneer (bass) and Rudi Fischerlehner (drums)

Track Listing: Soaps: 1. Tuesday Ends Saturday 2. Deep Fried Prog 3. Greed Mongers 4. A Lame Excuse 5. Sonic Finder 6. Compound 7. Double Standards 8. A Dystopian Soap 9. Cogs In Cogs (Empty Promise Broken) 10. Space Captain 11. May Dance 12. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)

Personnel: Soaps: Andreas Willers (electric and acoustic guitars); Jan Roder (bass and electric bass) and Christian Marien (drums and percussion)