It's only right that the whole membership of this quartet gets equal billing, as this is a group that sublimates the individual in the interest of collective identity. Given the instrumental line-uptwo horns, bass and drumsthere are, of course, countless precedents for music in this form. The group proves itself to be abundantly aware of them, but the degree to which it transcends them is ultimately a matter for debate.
In choosing to concentrate on bass clarinet Rudi Mahallwhose work with pianist Aki Takase on Evergreen, also released in 2009 on the same labelis a positive delight, evidently knowing that individual precedents on the horn are few; he avoids comparisons with both Eric Dolphy and Michel Pilz in a manner that's not self-conscious. When he gets reflective, as he does on "Uotenniw," he does so with a grace aided in no small part by his sense of economy.
It's only with repeated listening that comparisons with the classic Ornette Coleman quartet fade away. The odd iteration of "Tinnef" is a kind of antithesis to Coleman's singular song, especially when Dorner does a passable imitation of someone playing at half-tempo in his solo. Even when he resorts to tried and trusted methods, tension and release are not so much subverted as navigated around, as though they were obstacles on the path to a more fundamentally realizable kind of freedom.
"Tu Es Nicht" tends to underscore the primacy of a collective notion. Rhythmic stasis is best emphasized by Dorner's declamatory contribution, especially when he punctuates it with streams of scarcely inflected notes. In face of this Mahall deals in something like the full extent of his horn's range, adding pungent comment.
"Rumba Brutal" turns out to be self-explanatory. Jennessen is on the rhythmic nail but the horns suggest something else, while bassist Jan Roder suggests something else again, much as Mahall does in his solo. Whilst sticking within the bass clarinet's natural range he conjures up only his own personality, with his angular phrasing, surprisingly given the Dolphy precedent, entirely his own.
"Salty Dog" offers a welcome dose of the same as far as he's concerned, although the rhythmic displacement is of an entirely different order. Conventional relations between bass and drums have no place here and Dorner too makes the most of the accommodating freedom.
Personnel: Axel Dorner: trumpet; Rudi Mahall: bass clarinet; Jan Roder: bass; Uli Jennessen: drums.