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Uli Beckerhoff: Diversity

Ian Patterson By

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German trumpeter/composer Uli Beckerhoff has dedicated half a century to his craft, earning numerous plaudits and awards along the way. His collaborations have been many and varied, as evidenced on the career retrospective 70 (Dot Time Records, 2017), a double CD compilation featuring collaborations with John Abercrombie, Palle Danielsson, Norma Winstone, John Marshall, Arild Andersen and Jasper vant'Hof, amongst others. Here, Beckerhoff fronts his latest group of young, up-and-coming German talent, all three of whom also play in guest guitarist Julian Fischer's quartet. Eight Beckerhoff originals and three compositions by pianist Richard Brenner showcase strong individual and collective playing, on music that's broad in range of styles as well as moods.

Brenner's melancholy piano and Moritz Gotzen's sympathetic bowed bass announce the atmospheric "Brujeria." Beckerhoff's dramatic entrance instils the sensation of stirring lament, his longing phrasing underpinned by Niklas Walter's rumbling mallets and washing cymbals. Beckerhoff's lyricism bookends "Para Jimbo," a meditative tribute to Antonio Carlos Jobim that features gently coursing piano and bass solos, with additional textures from Fischer's electric guitar. By contrast, "Tiramisu" is a short and punchy post-bop workout, with the gutsy exchange between Beckerhoff and Fischer—who play together regularly as a duo—raising sparks aplenty.

Fischer's presence is key to the diversity of the album's title; whether conjuring John Scofield-esque terrain with a gnarly solo on "Talkshow," or bringing pedal-driven atmospherics to both the vignette "Secret Codes" and the meatier ensemble piece "Colico," he brings a contemporary edge to proceedings. The guitarist shines on the aptly titled "Past and Present," his visceral, rapier solo the highlight of a barrelling romp that evokes John Coltrane's classic quartet in full flight. Likewise, on the boppish "Prana"—all fast-walking-bass, scurrying trumpet and feverish drums—Fischer's progressive, tumbling lines leave a strong impression.

When the guitarist sits out, the quartet steers a fairly unwavering, though satisfying straight-ahead course. There's much to admire in Brenner's "Bleeker's Street," which highlights the pianist's melodious improvisational elan, and in the plaintive beauty of the ballad "Questions Without Answers"; on the latter, Beckerhoff's warm, tender playing is nicely framed by brushes, bass and spare piano. The trumpeter, in fact, has never sounded better throughout these eleven tunes, his virtuosity and emotional shading tempting favourable comparison to greats like Tomasz Stanko and Enrico Rava. A largely up-tempo, animated set closes on an introspective note with Brenner's "Lullaby," a melancholy duet between pianist and Beckerhoff that fades away just a little too soon.

Beckerhoff is in fine form on Diversity, as is his young quartet. The mixture of experience and youth chimes nicely, and the chemistry at play from musicians who know each other well is evident throughout. Fischer, who widens the quartet's sonic palette to notable effect, would make a logical permanent addition to the ranks; even if the guitarist's contribution to the quartet is to be just a passing cameo, it will go down as a memorable one at that. This is a fine addition to Beckerhoff's discography, a musician who continues to grow and to give.

Track Listing

Brujeria; Para Jimbo; Tiramisu; Bleeker Street; Talkshow; Secret Codes; Colico; Past and Future; Questions Without Answers; Prana; Lullaby.

Personnel

Uli Beckerhoff: trumpet; flugelhorn; Richard Brenner: piano; Moritz Götzen: double bass; Niklas Walter: drums; Julian Fischer: guitar.

Additional information

Title: Diversity | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Dot Time Records

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