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Urs Leimgruber: Lausanne & Love Letters for the President

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Urs Leimgruber; Thomas Lehn.
Lausanne
For 4 Ears Records
2009


Hans Koch; Urs Leimgruber; Omri Ziegele.
Love Letters to the President
Intakt Records
2009


It may be grossly reductive to speak about an album in terms of how much audio space its five songs take up individually. And it may be a total coincidence that the most enjoyable tracks on it are also the pithiest. But in Urs Leimgruber and Thomas Lehn's recording Lausanne, length is both a blessing and a curse. The tracks are epic—one clocking in just shy of 16 minutes—and make hefty demands from the listener. This is where it gets tricky. On track two, "Deux," you're a full minute in before you realize your music player isn't broken, as sounds begin to trickle in. The sax bits enter surreptitiously and leave with equal ease. The listener has to commit fully to each track to be able to enjoy the record. And that may demand repayment with a recording of staggering virtuosity. If it fails to deliver near-perfection, it may be a moment of disappointment on both ends.

The loveliest track on the record is "Cinque". It begins ominously and ends triumphantly, with Leimgruber's sax navigating and electrifying the song's unraveling. It's not easy to decipher why the preceding tracks require so generous a time lapse to come into fruition, with notes spilling over, crashing into each other and leaving many spaces silent—silences that would seem powerful if they sounded replete with potential energy and not limpness. (If the volume is not set on loud, you can miss the taps and beeps and burps and believe the song is over.) But this conceptual difference of opinion does not detract from the promise of the third and fifth tracks. Leimgruber is a talented saxophonist and he would benefit from a more concentrated aesthetic. When allowed to display his skills in a more straightforward manner, without white noise to distract, he's at his best.

The Schweizer Holz Trio record Love Letters to the President features Leimgruber at his finest. The record seems more conceptually cohesive and the whole arrangement is economical but free. The third track, "Letter III," uses silent blocs to build expectation for intoxicated notes that collapse into each other with giddy delight. There's less excavating expected, since the seven tracks are sparkling, with every second filled with moments of poignant surrender. Length is reigned in and track four, "Rain Upon Your Heart," is a lovely piece of sorrow and verve. It is also just over 16 minutes long. Hans Koch's clarinet is gentle and sure and Omri Ziegele's robust vocal performance is haunting. Leimgruber is also key to the piece, as he enters with an expert understanding of moment and tone. The piece covers different moments in a spectrum, with Leimgruber's sax moving from tender to assertive with smooth transitions. When the stunning piece ends, it's a disappointing moment—on both ends, I'm sure.


Tracks and Personnel

Lausanne

Tracks: Un; Deux; Trois; Quatre; Cinque.

Personnel: Urs Leimgruber: soprano and tenor saxophone; Thomas Lehn: analogue synthesizer.

Love Letters to the President

Tracks: Letter I; Second Track.Letter II; Letter III; Rain Upon Your Heart; Somehow Brighter Sky; Waiting for An Answer; Couldn't Think of One Word.

Personnel: Hans Koch: Bass clarinet and soprano saxophone; Urs Leimgruber: tenor and soprano saxophone; Omri Ziegele: alto saxophone and voice.


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