Franz Koglmann / James Emery / Tony Coe

August 26, 2002

Don’t Play, Just Be

Between the lines btl 021/EFA 10191-2

Thoroughly discredited — or merely out of fashion — in North America since the mid-1960s, the admixture of jazz and classical music called Third Stream seems to thrive in its afterlife in Europe. Or at least when it’s applied by Viennese composer/flugelhornist Franz Koglmann.

Excluding the final quartet track, the eight others here, divided into two suites, find Koglmann, clarinetist and tenor saxophonist Tony Coe, guitarist James Emery and bassist Uli Fussenegger providing the improvised components of music the flugelhornist wrote for the Klangforum Wien, a leading New Music orchestra. Adding soprano Ursula Fiedler for the second suite, four songs on the theme of late love (“späte liebe”) unbalances the equation with some extra-musical considerations, however.

The first four compositions, which are written attacca, to flow one into another, are also the most memorable because Koglmann doesn’t just shove his soloists on top of the chamber orchestra, like icing on a pre-made cake. Here he integrates them into the ingredients that go into making this puff pastry.

Klangforum Wien’s orchestral string, woodwind and brass sections gives the title selection the feel of Claude Thornhill’s or Stan Kenton’s orchestras, when they experimented with that sort of line-up. Considering that the Thornhill band’s chief arranger was Gil Evans, who went on to evolve a particularly serene orchestral showcase for Miles Davis, whose flugelhorn tone influenced Koglmann, makes this parallel particularly fitting.

The work is tenor saxophonist Tony Coe appears to fit into this particular receptacle as well. An Englishman, whose reed playing seems to have evolved out of the Cool School’s take on Lester Young, Coe’s tender, emotive lines are more exhaled than accentuated. When emotional he seems to have sand in his tone, but no dirt. A thoroughgoing professional, his playing experience has encompasses stints with trumpeter Humphrey Lyttelton’s Dixie-Swing outfit, the Kenny Clarke-Francy Boland European mainstream band, a trio with pioneering free improviser drummer Tony Oxley and as featured tenor sax soloist for films such as Superman II, Victor Victoria and the Pink Panther series.

On tunes like “Rivette”, a blend from Koglmann and Coe introduce the slinky Gershwinesque theme is played over massed strings and horns, but there’s enough space for the probably through-composed participation of Klangforum musicians adding triangle tinkles and a piano vamp. Later, before the line’s outright classicism asserts itself to such an extent that it seems to be heading for waltz time, Emery has bested the woodwind section with some slithering blues guitarist runs and Fussenegger, the chamber orchestra’s regular section man, punches out some powerful bass runs. At other times the percussionists — singly and together — are given the freedom to create some rhythms in pure, swinging jazz time.

Other Klangforumians get into the act during the four songs based on existential-style poems by essay writer Franz Schuh. Violinists saw out comments, the tubaist burps his brawling horn, the trombonist sounds a few wah-wahs and the pianists hammers out flinty chords. Unfortunately, the text being sung by Fiedler in performance that at times approaches glass shattering intensity, is all in German; and no translation is provided. “Radio Banal” with its the repeated themes seems to be the most approachable of the four songs. That’s especially true following some call and response work from different sections of the band following a screeching glissando from Coe’s clarinet sweeps that over all the musicians. You can sense the cynicism implicit in the tune without understanding the words. And bet that this track won’t be played on the “banal” radio.

Peculiarly enough for such an avowed (post) modernist as Koglmann, “Entre chien et loup”, a pointillistic exercise designed to celebrate World Press Freedom Day, sounds a lot like the tunes played by the old Ruby Braff-George Barnes Swing revivalist group. In quartet formation with bassist Peter Herbert replacing Fussenegger, the melodic delicacy exhibited on the flugelhornist’s original composition resembles the buoyant resiliency cornettist Braff and guitarist Barnes brought to compositions from The Great American Songbook. Of course, no guitarist partner of Braff ever exhibited the finger-blurring nylon guitar string exhibition of Emery, nor did those self-limiting modern mainstreamers state the theme with fruity insouciance as Coe does.

More pleasurable than not, this CD shows what can and can’t be done with jazz soloists and a chamber orchestra. Next challenge: vocal integration.

— Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Nuit blanche 2. Don’t Play, Just Be 3. Rivette 4. Blue Look; Four Songs based on poems by Franz Schuh for soprano, quartet and chamber orchestra: 5. Späte Liebe 6. Stillebe 7. Mutter 8. Radio banal 9. Entre chien et loup (for quartet dedicated to Reporters sans frontiers)*

Personnel: Franz Koglmann (flugelhorn); Tony Coe (clarinet, tenor saxophone); James Emery (guitar); Uli Fussenegger *(bass); Ursula Fiedler (soprano); Klangforum Wien: Sasa Dragovic (trumpet); Andreas Eberle (trombone); Christoph Walder ( French horn); Hannes Haider (tuba); Vera Fischer (flute, piccolo); Wolfgang Zuser (flute, alto flute); Heinz-Peter Linshalm, Judith Lehner (clarinets); Donna Wagner Molinari (clarinet, bass clarinet); Ariane Horz (English horn); Marcus Deuter (oboe) Lorelei Dowling (bassoon); Annette Bik, Sophie Schafleitner (violins); Andrew Jezek (viola); Andreas Lindenbaum, Benedikt Leitner (cello); Florian Müller (piano); Krassimir Sterev (accordion); Björn Wilker (percussion); Lukas Schiske (drums, percussion); Emilio Pomárico (conductor)