Franz Koglmann: Make Believe
A newly launched jazz label based out of Frankfurt, Germany Between The Lines offers the astute jazz public yet another glimpse of this ever-evolving musical art form. Led by famed composer/trumpeter/flugelhornist Franz Koglmann, Make Believe is one of three inaugural releases for the upstart label, while Koglmann also serves as artistic director for this and other Between The Lines releases. What an interesting lineup indeed as Koglmann, who performs on trumpet and flugelhorn, utilizes the laudable talents of legendary British reedman, Tony Coe, french hornist Tom Varner, guitarist Brad Shepik and Austrian bassist Peter Herbert. Make Believe comprises six musical scenes based on Jean Cocteau's novel, Les Enfants Terribles. As the title track, Jerome Kern's "Make Believe" might seemingly allude to an unorthodox blend, given the true nature of the material and overall concept.
Based upon Jean Cocteau's time honored novel, the band invokes surreal imagery through interesting interplay supplemented by a curiously distinctive group sound. Again, Koglmann employs a drummer-less band, and true to form the absence of drums or percussion enables the ensemble to explore sharp angles and circuitous routes as the fine bassist Peter Herbert should be commended for his exemplary rhythmic support. The title track serves as an appropriate opener, whereas the psychoanalytical nature of Cocteaus work coupled with an affinity for opium perhaps establishes some sort of aura or guideline for the music presented here and throughout. Here, Koglmann establishes the main theme while directing the band into a mid-tempo swing as bass clarinetist Coe pursues deeply resonant lines that coalesce with the low range tonalities provided by Varner and Herbert. A heavy bottom prevails as Shepik's sharp-edged electric guitar performances provide a startling contrast while vibrant group interplay takes precedence in somewhat of a frolicsome manner. Koglmann's "L ecrevisse" might mirror Cocteau's surrealistic sensibilities as Shepik turns in some nifty slide guitar lines, alternating chop chords and harmonics which nicely counters Coe's weaving clarinet phraseology while Varner and Koglmann spurt brief jagged lines that seemingly transcend the music to a higher level. On Koglmann's "Interlude" Coe picks up his tenor sax as the band secures a moderate swing tempo atop Herbert's dexterously soft walking bass lines which hints at a brief shift in strategy while the horn section stirs up memorably melodic themes and mildly conversational dialogue. Whereas "Rue Montmarte" features a motif that could be straight out of a 1950s Hollywood-style black & white detective movie, as Herbert and Shepik execute lines that might suggest surf music or the theme to the 1960s TV show, Peter Gunn. Again, the proceedings eventually heat up as the whimsical rhythms give way to serious-minded albeit, furious group dialogue.
Essentially, Make Believe is something akin to an impressionist painting or work of art that pays dutiful homage to Jean Cocteauthe motivating and inspirational force behind this commissioned project. Overall, the music transcends ordinary words as movement, colorful patterns, expressive dialogue and a sense of hearty spirit looms over the top like some unimaginable aura. Basically, the music is that powerful! Strongly recommended!.......* * * * *
Personnel: Franz Koglmann; Trumpet, Flugelhorn: Tony Coe; Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Tenor Sax: Tom Varner; French Horn: Brad Shepik; Guitar: Peter Herbert; Bass.