Ulrich Gumpert / Gunter Baby Sommer: Das Donnernde Leben (2009)
Collaborations between pianists and drummers often evolve around a unique chemistry creating interesting works of art. Such is the case with Misha Mengelberg and Han Bennink, Matthew Ship and Guillermo E. Brown, and Louis Moholo-Moholo and Marilyn Crispell. There's also Cecil Taylor and Tony Oxley, Paul Lovens, Jackson Krall or Max Roach). Add pianist Ulrich Gumpert and drummer Günter Baby Sommer to that list.
Maybe the closest comparison that can be made from to the music heard on Das Donnernde Leben ("the thundering life") is that of the Dutch Mengelberg/Bennink duo. While that duo is centered in Amsterdam upholding its European tradition, the music heard here has its roots in the American jazz and blues tradition.
The Gospel-tinged opening track begins with a Sommer drum solo, a gleeful yelp and scat singing, before the melody (an infectious toe-tapper) seals the deal. These two musicians trade solos throughout, finishing the other's phrase, like retelling favorite jokes. Similarly, the Peter Kowald-inspired "Blues Für P.K." is a Thelonious Monk-like piece by Sommer, fastening angular notes upon a blues romp. Tracks like "Free For Two" and the marching track "Soldat, Soldat" are great fun in their serious cartoon animated method. Sommer is a great colorist, moving beyond timekeeping into melody making.
When things turn a bit heavier on tracks like "Free For All" and "Ermutigung," the duo thoroughly shines. Gumpert's classical and improvisation skills assume control doling out interpretational wisdom with the gentlest of touch. The pianist has the ability to ring the keyboards as a percussionist or stroke the ivories as if he were holding a newborn. The session is best summed up by the final track, the hesitantly swinging waltz "Das kann doch nicht alles gewesen sein." Sommer and Gumpert dance in a synchronous, yet casual dance of music that is simply sublime.
Track Listing: Locker vom Hocker; Von C bis C; Blues für P. K.; Ermutigung; Free For Two; Inside Outside Shout (Sommer); Funk For Two; Kami-Fusen; Soldat, Soldat; Free Of All; Das kann doch nicht alles gewesen sein.
Personnel: Ulrich Gumpert: piano; Günter Baby Sommer: drums, percussion.