Norbert Stein Pata, Horns & Drums: Silent Sitting Bulls (2010)
Silent Sitting Bulls is the second release by this quartet, and it's clear that the time they've spent together has not been wasted. The outcome is an exceptional level of musical coherence, and it's not stretching a point to put their music alongside that of some of Arthur Blythe's ensembles as a model which, while it shows deep knowledge of the history of improvised music, also appreciates that a lot of its life's blood is generated by unassuming innovation.
So, while there are precedents for improvised music ensembles who take their cues from chamber music, these guys make those precedents sound fresh and invigorated. There's a playful quality to a lot of the music, too. On "Quantum Mechanics," a recurrent ascending figure constitutes one of the elements the group draws upon, before saxophonist Norbert Stein indulges in a vaguely volcanic tenor exposition. The following collective interplay is some distance from, say, Albert Ayler's music in its consideration, but there's still nothing methodical about it: these guys are intent on communication through enticement, as opposed to any candid rhetoric.
This is a point which sheds light on "Miao & Chiao," where the fractious horn unisons have that playful air again, before a theme, not without upbeat traces, lends the music a Township air. Michael Heupel's flute is the most compelling voice amidst the unassuming melee mainly, because his role is largely unpremeditated. Christoph Haberer's drum solo is deft and colorful enough to make even that usually tiresome device listenable, and before the piece is out it becomes clear that this is a group akin to a sponge in terms of the influences it takes in even while it retains its own identity.
One of those might be the work of the Willem Breuker Kollektiv, a sadly missed leader and band for whom the past was something to plunder, as opposed to a place upon which to lay the cold, bloodless hand of reverence. Thus, "Paradise Lost" fizzes with the precedents of European brass bands and antique martial airs, but then confounds expectations with the ease in which it switches to that collective improvisation; one of this band's many strengths. Stein, the composer, is clearly very aware of all of them, hence the reason why this music hangs with such lively coherence.
Track Listing: Silent Sitting Bulls; Nondual Action; Paradise Lost; This Is You; Quantum Mechanics; Schleuderhonig (Strained Honey); Miao & Ciao; Hapana Lakini.
Personnel: Norbert Stein: tenor sax; Michael Heupel: flutes; Nicolao Valiensi: euphonium; Christoph Haberer: drums, wavedrum.
Record Label: PATA Music