Maybe there's something in the Austrian water. Or maybe it's in the Wiener Schnitzel. The nation's population is just about equal to New York City's, but it boasts Mozart, Haydn and Mahler and Schoenberg, Berg and Webern among its favorite sons. More recent explorers include Gunther Mueller, Burkhard Stangl, Fennesz and the artists under review here. The small republic has a rich tradition of intelligence and innovation.
There's plenty of smarts at play in Franz Koglmann
's Lo-lee-ta: Music on Nabokov
and it would be unfortunate if this pleasant tribute were (like its dedicatee) overshadowed by one pedophilic tale. Despite his album's title, the heartbreaking tween only appears once, in an arrangement of Bob Harris' theme for Stanley Kubrick's 1962 film adaptation. It sets an appropriately cinematic tone for the quartet (featuring the fine clarinetist Tony Coe) and duo music Koglmann composed. Ada, Pale Fire and other Nabokov works are cited, in sometimes-brief themes, alternating between the restrained and satisfying quartets and the somewhat darker duos with Wolfgang Mitterer's piano and electronics.
Literary references are to be found in the liner notes, if not the music, of Daniel Riegler's Creatures & Other Stuff
. Tom Gsteiger's essay mimics (and is dedicated to) David Foster Wallace, the late American novelist whose writing comes fast, long and from all directions. Wallace is a fitting totem for Studio Dan, a young and 18-strong composers orchestra. With half the band contributing compositions, there are more than enough vantages swirling around. Riegler's "Creatures" occupies the first of the two discs, an eight-section romp that is unpredictable without trying too hard. There's a bit of circus and theater and a lot of fun, modern big band music. The second half, featuring the other composers, is necessarily more eclectic, pushing at the seams a bit more with some raggedy cabaret, edgier electric pieces, epic attacks and piano laments.
Saxophonist Max Nagl
pretty much never disappoints, nor does he fail to surprise. His band with keyboardist Clemens Wenger and drummer Herbert Pirker could be a classic jazz trio, but that would be ignoring the toys, banjo, melodica, steel drums and electronics. On Boulazac
, they kick up a glorious noise over a dozen jam-packed tracks (both written by the leader and group improvised), Nagl in particular showing enough smarts with the sampler that at no time do the proceedings come off as a three-piece. His adventures, as always, are rooted in tradition.
Tracks and Personnel Lo-lee-ta: Music on Nabokov
Tracks: Love Theme from Lolita; Hereafter #1; Montreux Palace; Hereafter #2; A Day's Work (dedicated to Michael Turnheim); Hereafter #3; Ada and Van; Vadim Vadimowitsch N.; Hereafter #4; Laura; Hereafter #5; Just Half a Shade; Hereafter #6 ; Martha Dreyer.
Personnel: Monoblue Quartet: Tony Coe: clarinet, alto saxophone; Franz Koglmann: trumpet, flugelhorn; Ed Renshaw: guitar; Peter Herbert: bass (1, 3, 5, 7, 8, 10, 12, 14). Duo Franz Koglmann & Wolfgang Mitterer: Franz Koglmann: trumpet, flugelhorn; Wolfgang Mitterer: piano, electronics (2, 4, 6, 9, 11, 13). Creatures and Other Stuff
Tracks: CD I: Creature I; Spin; K