It is fascinating to observe how each country adapts an already adaptable art form to its own particular culture. Due to its large population base, distinct regionalism and troubled history with jazz, Germany has birthed a vast number of disparate musicians working within the 'tradition.'
Since the death of Albert Mangelsdorff, clarinetist Rolf Kühn, born in Köln and 80 this September, is Germany's elder statesman. He has played with such diverse figures as Jack Sheldon and Tony Oxley and his voluminous output has included trad, free and fusion, all featuring his quirkily modern compositions. Rollercoaster, Kühn's first disc for Jazzwerkstatt, finds him leading a trio whose combined age barely exceeds his. But Kühn doesn't look and certainly doesn't play old, presenting a fresh program of nine tunes written by himself, brother Joachim, group guitarist Ronny Graupe and Ornette Coleman. It is often said that the best avant-garde players are those thoroughly steeped in the classics; Kühn embodies this and his band responds with both respect and urging.
Saxophonist/clarinetist Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, hailing from Northern Germany bordering Poland, is a few years Kühn's junior but is more closely associated with the burgeoning avant-garde scenes as a member of Zentralquartett and Globe Unity Orchestra. The Salmon is a duet session recorded in 2005 with younger drummer Michael Griener but is not all 'Raum Interstellaren.' Both musicians are well-versed in the particular brand of German free improvisation but use that experience to craft 11 pieces which range from sparse textural enterprises to more strident expositions in the vein of Peter Brötzmann and Han Bennink. This format has been explored ad naseum since 1967 but sometimes, as is very much the case here, players make it sound innovative again.
PAPAJOthe trio of Paul Hubweber (trombone), Paul Lovens (drums) and John Edwards (bass)is another mixed generation outing; Lovens is a cagey veteran of the groups of Alex von Schlippenbach, with Hubweber and Edwards (the lone non-German) beginning their careers in the mid '70s and '80s respectively. Simple Game was recorded at The Loft in Köln in 2006 and is six improvisations of a chiefly wispy nature, reflecting the influence that minimalist British free jazz had on Germany through players like Paul Rutherford (an obvious influence on Hubweber) and Evan Parker. This is no doubt due to the participation of Edwards, who works extensively with Parker (mighty German bassist Peter Kowald was in the group until his death). The dynamic interaction of the trio is paramount here.
Tracks and Personnel
Tracks: What a F... Day; Rollercoaster; Changing the Umbrella; Going Places; Caneveral; Let's Be Friends; Total Reflections; Round Trip; Time for a Sunny Day.
Personnel: Rolf Kuhn: clarinet; Ronny Graupe: guitar; Johannes Fink: bass; Christian Lillinger: drums.