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In the first movement of Gustav Mahler's Third Symphony, the composer musically presents the birth of the world and nature, with plants and animals coming to life in a wild and brilliant procession. It's the familiar sound world of the composer translated into a rich tableau that is somehow both familiar and brand new.
In this set's first extended piece, "The Morning Beckons, saxophonist Gratkowski and his band offer an emergence from the darkness, as presented in the improvising chattering and chirping of an ensemble that's smaller than the Mahler orchestra but no less expressive in its dramatic comings and goings. Two basses and two drummers do more than give the piece a basethey also add so much sound that the others cannot help but be buoyed by the weight of their presence.
All the musicians collectively are credited with the composition of this and the three pieces on the second disc, all of which come from a live performance at the 32nd New Festival in Moers, Germany. Hans-Martin Muller gave the musicians a new venueThe Loftfrom which to present these startling works and the players rose to the occasion.
As in the Mahler work, the sound world is one we know. Here it's the sphere of free jazz improvisation, but Gratkowski and his cohorts (who played the opening week of The Stone last month) have the time and setting to create a new sonic environment. They go from whispers to wails, creating their own path as they go. Gratkowski has a world of jazz and other improvised musics at his back, and they propel him to use them to find otherworldly modes of expression. Americans Herb Robertson and Gerry Hemingway are no strangers to this kind of environment, where they find a home and a starting-off point for musical adventure. Gratkowski's fellow EuropeansWolter Wierbos, Dieter Manderschied, and Wilbert DeJoodealso know the Loft and the company of Gratkowski and the others as home.
Track Listing: Disc 1: 1. The Morning Beckons.
Disc 2: 1. There Could I Marvel; 2. And the Mystery Sang Alive; 3. Out of the Loom.
Personnel: Frank Gratkowski, alto saxophone, clarinet, bass and contrabass clarinets; Tobias Delius (on CD 2 only), tenor saxophone, clarinet; Herb Robertson, trumpet; Wolter Wierbos, trombone; Dieter Manderschied, bass (left); Wilbert DeJoode, bass (right); Gerry Hemingway, drums (left); Michael Vatcher, drums (right).