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As part of its Unheard Music Series, Atavistic has reissued Open , a free improv recording from 1977 made in Berlin by European improvisers Gerd Dudek (reeds), Bushi Niebergall (bass) and Edward Vesala (drums). This is a first-time-on-CD reissue, with no hope of a reunion: Niebergall, a mainstay on the Euro-scene of the seventies, seems to have disappeared into oblivion to the extent that his death "somewhere" in the '80s is his only known personal detail. Vesala passed away in 1999.
Born Martti Vesala in Finland, the drummer made several highly acclaimed records for ECM with his tightly led Sound & Fury ten-piece band. A tireless composer, thinker and influential musician, he shows himself on this record first and foremost to be a topnotch sideman and drummer with huge ears, great energy and a wide-ranging textural sensitivity, both in his own highly dynamic playing and his obvious attention to the whole of the group's sonic texture. Through his concentrated performance he steers and shifts the color of the ensemble and density of playing almost all by himself, or in strong cooperation with bassist Nierdergall, as can be heard in their tom tom and bowed tremolo bass buildup on "Mira."
Gerd Dudek (who is still among us; he made his first album as a leader two years ago at the age of 63) plays a very clean and linear game. In his style the fruits of a highly melodic imagination grow on a sturdy foundation of jazz chops, without ever giving in to "running" scales or arpeggios. His soprano sax playing, in particular, as on "H.S.," is quite impressive, with a strong, deep, squeak-free tone and on-the-spot intonation. It lends his playing a Dolphy-ish character and sets it apart from the usual Coltrane ripoffs. The title tune, with very inspired multi-timbral flute work by Dudek, is an amazing trip that takes the listeners and musicians to all almost every corner imaginable: a monster effort by the whole group.
The music on Open is a true improviser's almanac. The lack of predictability goes hand in hand with a concentration that never lets off, and the players have each other by the throat all the time, so to speak, leading to an intensity that doesn't quit. This great reissue contains some of the best improvising and ensemble playing I have heard in a long, long time, serving as a reminder of how great free playing can beor used to be?