Die Enttäuschung

March 20, 2024

Music Minus One
Two Nineteen Records 219-010

Die Enttäuschung
Die Komplette
Two Nineteen Records 219-011

One of the most consistently stimulating groups in international creative music is Berlin-based Die Enttäuschung (The disappointment in English). About as far from the meaning of its name as Germany is from New Zealand, the band consists of four of the country’s busiest players, involved in myriad other projects. Since it began in the mid-1990s there has only been on change in the quartet with  Michael Griener replacing the original drummers. Other members are trumpeter Axel Dörner, clarinetist Rudi Mahall and bassist Jan Roder. Together the group has recorded with everyone from Alexander von Schlippenbach and Barry Guy to Uli Gumpert and Ellery Eskelin.

The band’s most recent discs, which return it to the label with which it started recording in 1995 offer between the two 35 brief tracks which easily pinpoint the quartet’s appeal. Although all have worked in more atonal settings, the majority of Die Enttäuschung’s sounds are reminiscent of the early Ornette Coleman quartet with Don Cherry with faint echoes of the Gerry Mulligan quartet with Chet Baker, though Dörner is a much more  accomplished player than Baker could ever have been.

Besides faultless harmony or counterpoint with Mahall, you can note this in the squeaks, triplet escalation and half-valve smears, he outputs as well as some  nearly mainstream portamento evolutions. This is particularly noticeable on Music Minus One’s “Etzadla” where reflux burbling is soon replaced by brass triplets which spear the air from higher and higher elevation, finally uniting with clarion flutters from Mahall, as the drums clack and clatter and Roder’s unstoppable walking bass line continues throughout. On  Die Komplette’s “Trompete Für Anfänger”, his flighty peeps accent concentric timbral action from the clarinetist, culminating in reed whorls and curls.

Sophisticated in the tonal extensions from both clarinet registers – although he infrequently slips in some baritone saxophone snorts for extra power – Mahall’s most frequent go-to is the chalumeau register whose rumbles an snores add ballast or Dolphyesque swirls to the tunes. On the other hand, tracks such as Music Minus One’s “Versägt” and the following “Ich bin nicht dazu gekommen” demonstrate his clarion command. On the first, reed loops, whoops and descending squeaks righten themselves into rugged multiphonics as Roder carefully picks out sympathetic pulses and Dörner’s head suggests a Coleman line. Bouncy and carefully harmonized in the intro and ending, “Ich bin nicht dazu gekommen” has Mahall’s shakes and smears accenting the trumpeter’s strained patterns while positioned rim shots and a bass pulse allow the exposition to move upwards without losing a linear feel.

The heart of the discs, with his steadying thumps present, but not overbearing on all 35 tracks, Roder’s solo sections are brief but to the point. Building a timekeeping ostinato on Music Minus One’s “Ich hatte den Kopf nicht frei” he preserves the narrative for unison barbed bites from the horns’ encompassing Dörner’s squeezed half-valve work and hearty scoops from Mahall, wrapping up the piece with positioned string stops. On Die Komplette’s “Christian & Isolde” he serves as the tune fulcrum, with vibrating low-pitched pizzicato string measures serving as the interlocution between trumpet shakes, clarinet flutters and drum paradiddles.

Unshowy, but adding back beats, cymbal sizzles and speedy rumbles when needed, Grienier infrequently gooses the expositions sideways with interjections from glockenspiel or cowbell.. He can roll and rap drum top consistently as on Music Minus One’s “Verlacht” or complete “Grundlos eitel” with a drum break after glockenspiel slaps have colored the same track, but his main aim is group cohesion.

While most of the two CDs’ tracks exist in the affiliation between Freebop and Free Jazz, a couple of tracks also demonstrate Die Enttäuschung’s members affiliation for more dissonant sounds Music Minus One’s “Salty Dog” is a fine instance. As Dörner projects toneless breaths, Mahall responds with smeary split tones and Genier with intermittent pops and rolls. Tellingly though all harmonize at the end.

That tune is an instance that expresses the idea of Die Enttäuschung. It manages to be both contemporary and questing at the same time. Each disc is a fine representation of the band’s mature work. However listening to both in one sitting may be too much of a good things.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Music: 1. Ich stand im Stau 2. Verlacht 3. Soderla 4. Ich hatte zu viel zu tun 5. Also 6. Grundlos eitel 7. Versiebt 8. Ich hatte den Kopf nicht frei 9. °F 10. Versägt 11. Ich bin nicht dazu gekommen 12. Verpfuscht 13. Etzadla 14. Verzögerung im Betriebsablauf 15. Vergeigt 16. Da fang ich morgen mit an 17. Ah so

Personnel: Music: Axel Dörner (trumpet); Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet, clarinet and baritone saxophone); Jan Roder (bass and electric bass) and Michael Griener (drums)

Track Listing: Die: 1. Im Zwinger 2. Bulyah-Dath 3. Mobilat 4. Murx 5. Das Jan Vom Stück 6. Mostly Harmless 7. Rocket in the Pocket 8. Gekannt 9. 4 Halbe 10. Verkannt11. Christian & Isolde 12.Tja 13. Trompete Für Anfänger 14. Vorwärts – Rückwärts 15. Salty Dog 16. Möbelrücken 17. XXX 18. Schienenersatzverkehr

Personnel: Die: Axel Dörner (trumpet); Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet, clarinet and baritone saxophone); Jan Roder (bass and electric bass) and Michael Griener (drums)