There'll always be a lot to be said for music that takes in the rambunctious swagger of David Murray's tenor sax playing and Willem Breuker Kollektif's near-irreverence and this release underlines the point nicely.
Stein's tenor sax has something also of Al Cohn's later tone, although it's imbued with such a different swagger that the comparison is of only limited utility, especially when the music's so different from anything Cohn produced as is "Die Zen Gebote (The Zen Commandments)," where the front line of tenor sax, flute and trombone puts out a convoluted line over rhythmic changes that would fox many. Matthias Muche's trombone solo is a model of trenchant self-expression, incidentally, and indicative of the degree to which expressivity is integral to the overall realization of the music.
The music is free of contrivance in its lightness of spirit too. "Music For Stand-Alone Player" is a case in point with its sprightly rhythm changes and the bass-drum's axis ensuring that the absence of harmonic support passes unnoticed. Again Muche's trombone is featured in solo and he makes the most of the opportunity, putting out some solar flares even while he keeps right in with the spirit of the piece.
The following "For: Get It!" is, on the surface, a series of effects and its only with repeated listening that it becomes something else; the structure of the piece as subject to the passing moment as it's possible to be. In solo, Stein brings his big, broad tone to bear in the service of small, fleeting touches and that paradox is broken down by a drum solo in which Haberer explores the full range of his kit, colors flaring again.
The measured hyperactivity of "Alice in der Parallelen Welt (Alice In The Parallel World)" defines how the group operates. On flute Michael Heupel gives the music some air, his fractious phrasing locking in with bass and drums in a rhythmic vortex. The group as a unit is as tight as is necessary, and the paradox that is their simultaneous looseness contributes in no small part to the distinctiveness of the music. The lesson is borne out by the closing "Borderline," where measured but happily unstately progress is the order of the day, allowing a glimpse of the group's organic unity even while the music flirts with the free.
Personnel: Norbert Stein: tenor sax; Michael Heupel: flutes; Matthias Muche: trombone; Sebastian Gramss: bass; Christoph Haberer: drums.