Jean-Luc Cappozzo / Christine Wodrascka / Gerry Hemingway

December 26, 2014

Grey Matter

NoBusiness Records NBCD 63


.AAA Live

Creative Sources CS 255 CD


Free Music on a Summer Evening

Sporeprint 1312-01

Based upon the interaction of a brass instrument with two other – ostensibly rhythm section – instruments, these CDs validate the almost infinite diversity of modern improvisation. Individually changing the line-up by substituting a single instrument creates distinctive programs though. Crucially as well while each session is characterized by restraint – even though two feature a drummer – careful listening reveals noticeable distinctions. Grey Matter is the most Jazz-oriented of the three, while .AAA Live is the most consciously experimental. Free Music on a Summer Evening slots comfortably between the two.

American drummer Gerry Hemingway keeps options open on Grey Matter with fully developed but unobtrusive backing, His sounds range from padded plops to metered rattles plus extended spins, the better to blend with the understated keyboard comping and inside piano forays of French pianist Christine Wodrascka. Thus trumpeter/flugelhornist Jean Luc Cappozzo, whose output can be brassy when faced with a mercurial type like bassist Joëlle Léandre, also keeps timbres under wraps. But as with the others’ playing, there’s an underlying swing to his squeaks, growls and lowing which doesn’t have to be noisy to be distinctive

That said the CD’s stand out track is its title selection. Cappozzo’s forcing of tremolo kazoo-like timbres from his horn is initially met with distracted thumps from the drummer and low-energy chording from Wodrascka, until a spark is somehow lit to the extent that the track excitedly climaxes with high-frequency keyboard clicks echoing alongside a flurry of extruding brass notes. The pianist who has matched wits with the likes of saxophonist Daunik Lazro, also brings her playing up to florid Cecil Taylor-like mode on “The Ghost Train”, rousing Hemingway to participate a rampaging race that has him triple popping his beats as the two Frisbee the theme from one to another.

Otherwise, especially on distinctive tracks such as the initial “Echappée Belle” and the concluding “Tanz Ende”, the three create in quiet cooperation. Tension is sustained through almost 11 minutes on the first track, as Cappozzo’s buzzing cries transform into harsh sputters, while the pianist backs him with a repeated phrase pushed to its lowest limit with pedal power. As for the concluding dance it’s a stop-start program balanced on Hemingway’s wood-block rhythms and Wodrascka’s off-handed swing so that the trumpeter’s werewolf-like cries are fully outlined.

Taking free form as their starting point, the German improvisers who make up .AAA come up with nothing as concrete as a melody on the instant composition “Denotationstrat” which at 36 minutes take up the largest chuck of this live CD; the three shorter tracks are a chance for each man to express himself in a solo context. As on the French session, trumpet, played by Axel Dörner, and piano from Achim Kaufmann are both represented. Rather than drums though, the third part of this triangle is Andreas Willers, who plays acoustic guitar and electronics. Charter members of Berlin’s unadorned Echtzeitmusik scene, each musician here also has experience playing vigorous Free Jazz. However the focus of “Denotationstrat” is on scene-setting and tensile textures not story telling. Kaufmann and Willers supply the physicality with a percussiveness that arrives from melding sharp, squeaky chordal tones. Additionally, electronic pulses wriggle and hiss as a secondary ostinato; never in the foreground, but always present. Meantime Dörner’s distinctive exposition is segmented among crying lip flutters plus air forced through the horn’s body tube. Occasionally his narrative intersects with orderly chord sequences from Kaufmann or positioned strums from Willers, but mostly the interaction is like that of solitary sentries on a disputed border: self-sufficient, but able to join with the others in a split-second. Vividly, but maintaining an understated narrative, the three reach a zenith of unrestricted pressurize on the final sequence as blurry guitar flanges, buzzing brass vibrations and solid key pumps overlap then dissolve, creating noticeable respite and a precise ending.

Honestly staking out a position that draws as much on Free Jazz as Free Music is Free Music on a Summer Evening. Driving the interaction is the two-decades-old Wiesbaden-based duo of bassist Georg Wolf and drummer Jörg Fischer – who singly or together have worked with stylists such as pianist Uwe Oberg and saxophonist Peter Brötzmann – plus expatriate Brit Mark Charig. Charig, who plays cornet and alto horn here, has been involved with variations of free playing since the late 1960s, most notably with pianist Keith Tippett and even ProgRockers King Crimson.

There are no echoes of Rock music here – progressive Canterbury or otherwise – but among five tracks, Charig inclines his contributions more towards the Jazz tradition than anything extant in Cappozzo or Dörner. During the course of “Potpourri for Harribee” – with perhaps the late Bajan-British trumpeter Harry Beckett the dedicatee – Charig’s moderated, mellow solo begins by sequentially suggesting “Taps”, a Spanish melody and Miles Davis circa “Round Midnight”. Later on, his inner tube squeaks and muted air vibrations are aptly seconded by Wolf’s walking and Fischer’s rattles.

Moving among reductionist air fluttering and arpeggiated smears, the cornetist makes sure chromatic motion is never neglected. His control is such that vibrated growls are used to blend with string bass string scrubs and quiet drum clacks. “Flows and Flurries” – an apt title – is conceivably this open-air-recorded CD’s defining track. With an early section that appears to allude to the heads of a collection of just-out-of-reach Jazz standards, later sequences adhere closely to so-called British Free Music. As Fischer’s precise clacks hold together disparate strands. Wolf’s spectacular high-pitched string pummeling could be homage to Derek Bailey’s detuned guitar sweeps rather than the output of any bassist.

Although there may be some who feel each of the trio members here could have let himself go a little bit more with some sloppy frenzy, that’s like criticizing a cat for not acting like a lion. Each session is an appropriate summation of how to create up-to-date brass-centred improvisations.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Live: 1. Denotationstrat 2. Inraten 3. Entraten 4. Aufraten

Personnel: Live: Axel Dörner (trumpet); Achim Kaufmann (piano) and Andreas Willers (acoustic guitar and electronics)

Track Listing: Free: 1. A Quick Hello 2. Cat and Mouse and Cheese 3. Potpourri for Harribee 4. Flows and Flurries 5. Preparing To Bloom

Personnel: Free: Mark Charig (cornet and alto horn); Georg Wolf (bass) and Jörg Fischer (drums)

Track Listing: Grey: 1. Echappée Belle 2. Rivulet 3. The sheriff Arrives 3. Grey Matter 4. Possession 5. Up Down 6. The Ghost Train 7. Tanz Ende

Personnel: Grey: Jean Luc Cappozzo (trumpet and flugelhorn); Christine Wodrascka (piano) and Gerry Hemingway (percussion)