Klaus TreuheitMay 10, 2002
3 in 1
Since the great European free music explosion of the 1970s it has become excessively clear that improvised music doesn’t have to be created within the Continental United States to be memorable. At the same time, despite what some critics insist, physical separation from North America doesn’t guarantee musical excellence either. Booklet notes in German, obscure British references in song titles or recording in Italian or French studios don’t create sounds that are any more competent than produced elsewhere.
Which is what gets us to these two discs by Klaus Treuheit, a keyboardist from Erlangen, Germany who records on his own label. Someone who is involved in all facets of the music business, such as composing for concert, radio, TV, film, theatre — including work for Aki Kaurimaki, the director who virtually invented the New Finnish Cinema — he also dabbles in CD production.
For most of the past decade Treuheit has released albums featuring himself in different settings ranging from small chamber music ensembles with vocal soloists to duos to these two, which are probably his strongest jazz cum improv statements. They’re solid, professional — could they be anything else? — pleasant and feature some notable sounds. But despite the country of origin they don’t stand out the way certain sessions by some of his fellow countrymen do.
First of all, the pianist may have some major misconceptions to dispel because of his looks. An earlier (?) photo included with 3 IN 1 shows a mustached Treuheit, with long, flowing dark hair playing the piano. Unfortunately he’s a dead ringer for Yanni, the New Age composer. More recent shots of a now gray haired, clean-shaven musician make him look like a slightly older Kenny G., poster boy for Smooth Jazz.
Luckily, the sounds within fit neither of those despised categories. 3 IN 1 is a straightahead piano trio disk, with touches of atonality, while INQUISITORIEN, subtitled “für präpariertes piano” is precisely that: nearly 50 minutes of sounds from treated keyboard innards.
The men who play Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen to Treuheit’s Oscar Peterson are respectively Christian Diener and Walter Bittner. The bassist has worked with Americans, free saxophonist Sam Rivers and fusion percussionist Billy Cobham, while the drummer a frequent Treuheit’s associate, has played with American pianist Joanne Brackeen, worked in funk and Latin bands, sings and produces and arranges other jazz-related projects.
Perhaps it’s this veneer of studio professionalism that makes the trio disc a little less than it should be. Everything ticks along like clockwork all right, a not uncommon attribute of O.P.’s classic trio as well, but the result can sound like that of pros playing at being a piano group. Sure the title tune, working on the time-honored strategy of tension and release offers many arpeggios from the piano and a vaguely Spanish vamp, while “Passacaglia” does the expected classical into jazz legerdemain with the theme stretched over several bars.
A quick stop-and-start romantic melody results from piano tickles and drum brushwork on “Kein Konfetti”. Plus there’s even a classic bop shout out for Kaurimaki on “Aki Callin’”, complete with an apostrophe in the title. Still the group really shows its limitations with “Thelonious”. Mainstream drumming, nearly inaudible bass and expected light piano chords don’t reflect the quirky Monk in the least. Maybe a more appropriate title would have been “Oscar” or “Keith” or “Bill”.
Much better are “Malpertuis”, sort of a free jazz ballad, which finds the pianist ranging all over and inside the keyboard while Bittner plays disconnected patterns and Diener plucks out some vaguely horror movie-like passages. Not really that much spicier, despite the title “Mr. Paprika” finds Treuheit, in a swirling clouds of arpeggios, indulging in some early Cecil Taylor-like note ascensions, complete with internal strums.
Then there’s “Mr. Cool”, a slow-paced finger snapper. With its Afro Cuban sounds from drums, steady walking bass and funky chords from the pianist it seems in danger of revolving itself as theme music for a Teutonic P.I. show. More sophisticated key changes mute the idea, but professionalism trumps experimentation in the end.
Prepared piano forays dominate all of the second CD. Here Treuheit prepares his instrument so that the internal mechanical sounds play off against one another. Treatments make it seem as if he’s playing a vibraharp or marimba, crashing a drum kit, ringing bells or even manipulating filled water bottles at various times. Again, this sort of playing has been around since the early experiments of John Cage. Treuheit doesn’t add that much new to the basic prod, pull and insert formula, but at least creates ear attracting tones which sound original enough to satisfy.
Both of these CDs have something to offer, especially for those seekers after the novelty of little known stylists. Yet trend spotters should realize that it’s the likely the names rather than the techniques or the music that are unusual here.
— Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 3 in 1: 1. Passacaglia 2.Sog 3. Thelonious 4. 3 in 1 5. Flir 6. Aki Callin’ 7. Mr. Cool 8. Malpertuis 9. Kein Konfetti 10. Mr. Paprika 11. Loop
Personnel: 3 in 1: Klaus Treuheit (piano); Christian Diener (bass); Walter Bittner (drums)
Track Listing: Inquisitorien: 1. Inquisitorien I 2. Inquisitorien II 3. Inquisitorien III 4. Inquisitorien IV 5. Inquisitorien V 6. Inquisitorien VI 7. Calypsa 1 8. Calypsa 2 9. Calypsa 3 10. Calypsa 4 11. Für Stan Laurel 12. Requiem 13. Inquisitorien VII
Personnel: Inquisitorien: Klaus Treuheit (piano, prepared piano)