Pinguin Moschner & Joe Sachse

October 25, 2023

Uncovered Mermen: Play the Music of Jimi Hendrix
JazzhausMusik JHM 300

Now that Rock music has moved into its eighth decade of existence, Jazz musicians are increasing used Rock songs for the basis of improvising and as a respite from the over-mined American Song book. Entire albums have been devoted to Rock songs, with mixed results. Luckly Germans, tuba player Pinguin Moschner and guitarist Joe Sachse are ahead of the game. Rather than as others have turning to the music of David Bowie or The Police, the two stick to the songs of Jimi Hendrix, who had enough Jazz bona fides to at least jam with Miles Davis before he died more than a half century ago. This also isn’t the first investigation of the Hendrix oeuvre by Moschner, known for among other groups, European Tuba Quartet and Sachse, who was part of Doppelmoppel as well as other bands. Furthermore this isn’t the first time the duo has tangled with Hendrix. Uncovered Mermen is a quarter century follow up to their Hendrix disc of 1994.

The subsequent years allow them to both project and play with the Hendrix themes, passing the narrative and accompanist roles back and forth, with standard and extended techniques and using hard tuba blasts or electric twangs and frails to convey the familiar heads as well as variations on them. That said the most profound track is “Red House”, an all-out Blues and one most closely related to bedrock Jazz. As the tubaist initially creates a continuum, the guitarist picks out proper Jazz-Blues licks that could have been played by Herb Ellis. When he returns to string hammering and stressed slides, Moschner’s half-valve vocalized riffs respond with Blues sensibility. Other shorter tracks range from foot-tapping swing to intense string frails and brass growls that come as close to replicating Rock music as any band without an electric bass and drums can. The title track is actually the most exploratory. It’s awash with electrified string scratches plus ghostly whooshes and squeals from the tuba. Finally it relaxes into modified theme elaborations where guitar plinks and brass puffs extend the narrative while keeping it linear.

Although Sachse annexes some bent Blues notes to a variant of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” its inclusion seems extraneous. However it does set up “Sgt. Propper’s Lonely Tuba” where Moschner amplifies elevated portamento gusts and lowing buzzes to project the tuba’s timbral versatility. A pleasant romp with a serious undertone these Uncovered Mermen show that any material can be reinterpreted with the proper ideas and skill.

–Ken Waxman

Track Listing: 1. Crosstown Traffic 2. 51st Anniversary 3. In from the Storm 4. Red House 5. Message to Love 6. 1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be) 7. Fire 8. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 9. Sgt. Propper’s Lonely Tuba 10. All Along the Watchtower 11. Manic Depression 12. Power of Soul/Can You See Me

Personnel: Pinguin Moschner (tuba) and Joe Sachse (guitar)