Saxophonist/clarinetist Gebhard Ullmann’s latest venture is based upon his musical associates’ compositional backgrounds and styles, as the trio renders a potpourri of highs, lows, peaks and valleys throughout this altogether attractive production. With “Sombras E Nevoeiro/A Luz Da Sombra,” the artist’s introspectively stated bass clarinet lines are contrasted by Jens Thomas’ ever so delicate plucking of his acoustic piano strings and subliminally executed lower register voicings. Thus, simple in appearance, yet subtly complex under the hood as the band seamlessly alters the pitch and tone of this piece only to regress back to the original themes via multihued patterns and radiant unison choruses. Meanwhile, Thomas sets up a peppery groove-based ostinato amid Carlos Bica’s bowed-bass maneuvers and Ullmann’s murmuring drones on “Gospel.”
Overall, the band presents a series of quaintly executed motifs boasting amicable melodies that are encircled by buoyant exchanges and meticulously fabricated three-way dialogue. However, Ullmann, performing on tenor sax, injects a vibrato-laden, bluesy swagger into “Essencia - largo,” while Thomas counteracts the proceedings with slanting movements along with Bica’s sensitively constructed arco-bass, extended notes. Here, the band converges inward, although Ullmann’s performance might elicit imagery of a musician practicing in a dimly lit alleyway. Simply stated, Essencia is a tranquil yet unassumingly powerful affair. Recommended
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