Boom Box: Jazz (2011)
Some might think there an element of presumption in titling a CD Jazz, but German saxophonist Thomas Borgmann gets right to the essence in this set by his Boom Box trio, with drummer Willi Kellers and bassist Akira Ando: spontaneous three-way conversations which swing. Borgmann has a back story that takes in iconoclasts such as saxophonists Peter Brotzmann and Charles Gayle, and pianist Borah Bergman, so the lyrical freedom which he purveys here may come as something of a surprise. A disc by his outstanding BMC threesome, the precursor to his current combo, was called Organic (The Lotus Sound, 1997), and that would be an appropriate label for this offering, too.
While writing credits are apportioned equally between the participants, the six tracks spanning this generous 76-minute studio session actually sound like extemporized constructs with loosely sketched themes. Improvised or not, they are notable for their tuneful nature and the restraint evident in their measured evolution and structure. A high level of responsiveness and communication is necessary to make everything work and seem so natural.
Borgmann splits his time between chirruping full-toned soprano and expressive tenor saxophone, often within the same piece, though he appears noticeably more likely to explore overblown shrieking exhortations on the latter. On both horns he creates simple, folkloric melodies, which he develops with nagging motifs, occasionally lengthening his lines into yelping dissonance or gruff barking. Kellers and Ando combine well in a simpatico free rhythm section, underpinning Borgmann with a buoyant rhythmic latticework. Kellers demonstrates a keen timbral awareness, extracting varied sonorities from his kit through his mallets and steel pan, while Ando maintains a busy counterpoint and insistent pulse.
To some extent the separate pieces are cut from the same cloth, but that hardly matters when the material is so fine. Typical is "Hey Little Bird" where, after a tumbling drum introduction, Borgmann sets out a beautiful dirge on soprano, becoming gradually more assertive, piping with an eastern tonality. An arco bass threnody leads to meditative tenor saxophone, passing through various moods until reaching a joyous celebratory conclusion. Elsewhere, "Albert & Frank" paraphrases Albert Ayler's "Ghost" in a an ecstatic incantation before the reedman switches to soprano for further melodic variations, while "Only For Dörte" begins as a tenor ballad backed in spacey conversation by bowed bass and steel pan. Breathy solecisms give way to the leader's harmonica evoking a poignant calypso feel, rounding off this attractive outing in satisfying style.
Track Listing: Little Birds May Fly; How Far Can You Fly?; Hey Little Bird; And To Where? Albert & Frank; Only For Dörte.
Personnel: Thomas Borgmann: tenor, soprano and sopranino saxophone, harmonica; Akira Ando: double bass; Willi Kellers: drums, percussion.