The International Nothing

May 21, 2022

Just None of Those Things
Ftarri 215

Jörg Schippas UnbedingT

JazzHausMusilk 289 CD

Whether two more disparate discs featuring two clarinets than these exist, is, of course, a moot question. But it’s a testimony to the breadth of improvised music available that all the musicians involved are German, and that each disc was recorded in Berlin within three months of one another. The conceptions and execution are vastly distant though. Tanzpalast lead by guitarist Jörg Schippas, who has worked with Kenny Wheeler and Carlos Bica, could be described as avant-garde contemporary swing. The 10 tracks feature drummer Christian Marien, who plays with the likes of Tobias Klein, plus clarinetist Jürgen Kupke and bass clarinetist Florian Bergmann, who often work in more advanced setting with Andreas Willers and Silke Eberhard. Just None of Those Things on the other hand is a single improvisation that could be called Ur-reductionist and calls on the concepts of spatialization and intermediate time sense. The International Nothing consists of clarinetists Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke, who usually work in low-keys settings with Christof Kurzmann among many others.

Imagine if the most advanced Swing era players with their sense of rhythm and technical skills intact were magically transported to the 21st century to improvise in a situation that stretched their technique still further and coupled it with contemporary influences and invention. That could be a description of UnbedingT. With Marien’s bouncing and resounding ruffs and claps evolving exactly as he would play in less cadenced environments, and Schippas’ single note or slurred fills projected with the acumen and brusque asides that accept Rock as well as improv, the tracks bounce along with a connective lilt. This also means is that the reeds can be carefully harmonized at the same time as they snake around one another with variations of tempo and pitch. The title track even suggests an Early Music like backing as unison clarion and chalumeau tones evolve with the higher pitches fluttering bird-like on top as the lower pitched tones buzz. Here as elsewhere, Kupke’s Arcadian line later connects with guitar comping as a melody confirmation as Bergmann creates the ostinato. The clarinetist and guitarist aren’t always in a Benny Goodman-Charlie Christian groove however. Schippas’ light-fingered slides and reed flutters can also suggest Latin or Balkan rhythms or spiral into quiet prettiness. On the other hand “NaNuNuNa” accedes to a Rock-Funk groove with sterling lead guitar vibrations and pumps and bangs from Marien that could get him a gig on a 1970s Rock revival show. Additionally, while some tracks are introduced by hard pumps and ruffs, inventive asides from the clarinetists that encompass sour basement snarls and slide-whistle-like shrieks confirm this is advanced improvised not simple contemporary music. Maintaining the dual strident and smooth counterpoint narratives to “Am Grat”, the final track, the quartet manages to blend and angle expositions in every direction. That one for instance moves from mellow and harmonized to unaccented and jarring timbres, Color and power are introduced through drum thumps and guitar twangs, with Schippas’ slurred fingering presaging the circling group polytones in the middle section which climax in cozy clarinet glissandi and a final string plink.

Remove the other players and concentrate on two reed stylists and the Nothing archetype is established. Build from unbroken clarion and ethereal reed tones that undulate and whistle simultaneously, the equivalent of an aural image images remains even when the circular and calliope-like counterpoint ceases. This reed palimpsest continues throughout as both players move pass mini climaxes of unison hollow blows and obligatory altissimo squeals. Vibrating linear-directed hisses are maintained despite the exposition appearing to be an unbroken mass. That’s why brief interludes of audible breaths that increase in volume, or emphasized single drones are still wedded to faint background hisses. A fulfilled juncture is reached during the penultimate sequence with a dissected siren-like tone, which is quickly moderated into oscillated slurps and tongue squeaks, eventually replaced by an undifferentiated line that gets wider and more concentrated as it moves towards the end. Reestablishing a lower-case variant of melody, the two segue into dual counterpoint of loon-like whistles and warbling trills as a dissolving finale.

Whether the reed portions are swinging or searching, the opposite approaches on these discs prove the sessions’ versatility and validity.

-Ken Waxman

Track Listing: Tanzpalast: 1. Djungle 2. Stolperjungchen 3. Tanzpalast 4. NaNuNuNa 5. BeBiBop 6. Lass Gehen 7. Rumpelstilzchen 8. Der Lurch 9. Am Grat

Personnel: Tanzpalast: Jürgen Kupke (clarinet); Florian Bergmann (bass clarinet); Jürg Schippa (acoustic guitar) and Christian Marien (drums)

Track Listing: None: 1. Just None of Those Things

Personnel: None: Kai Fagaschinski (clarinet -right) and Michael Thieke (clarinet – left)