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Paul Hubweber & Philip Zoubek: Archiduc Concert: Dansaert Variatiions

John Eyles By

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Trombonist Paul Hubweber has previously impressed in the trio PaPaJo, which he shares with bassist John Edwards and percussionist Paul Lovens, rightfully being compared with the late, great Paul Rutherford. Despite such comparisons, he draws from many sources. When practicing, he plays many Albert Mangelsdorff tunes, alongside Charlie Parker standards and J. S. Bach pieces.

In contrast to PaPaJo, Hubweber is here paired with prepared pianist Philip Zoutek. who is his junior by 24 years. The two have recorded before as a duo, on the long-gone Nobody's Matter But Our Own (Nur/Nicht/Nur, 2006). As its title suggests, Archiduc Concert: Dansaert Variations was recorded in concert at l'Archiduc in Brussels, in November 2007, some three months after Rutherford's death. The music consists of two substantial improvisations—25 and 26 minutes, respectively—each followed by a shorter piece.

The pairing of Hubweber and Zoubek is a happy one. There is no suggestion of a senior partner-junior partner relationship here. From the off, they are tuned into each other's thought waves, at times simultaneously locking into the same tempo in a way that is uncanny. But they do not stay locked together throughout; there is much of variety and contrast in their playing across the album. For instance, on the opening piece, "Mean Machine," there is a prolonged period of call-and-response, in which neither is obviously the leader, as phrases go back and forth, slowly evolving.

From time to time Hubweber unleashes those rich, fruity sustained notes for which his instrument is renowned; they slowly build and then decay. At other times, the trombonist lets off rapidly-articulated note clusters, with Zoutek managing to slip into the interstices of his playing. The overall effect is breathtaking.

Frustratingly, every year there are one or two recordings that arrive just too late to be included in those year-end "best of lists." For 2010, this was one of them. More, please.

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