231

Heiner Stadler: Jazz Alchemy

AAJ Staff By

Sign in to view read count
Heiner Stadler: Jazz Alchemy The concept of "Third Stream" and improvised compositions (composed improvisations?) did not die in the '50s. It has matured through the last half century to the point where the line between composition and improvisation has become extremely blurred. (Witness the graphic arrangements of Morton Feldman, for example, which require the performer to specify individual notes while maintaining a calculated course of pitch or intensity.) On discs like Heiner Stadler's Jazz Alchemy, it can be a real challenge to tell exactly where the composition ends and the improv begins. To use Stadler's term, the goal with this hybrid music is to attain a special kind of "calculated inaccuracy."

Part of the reason Jazz Alchemy works so well is that Stadler has enlisted some truly outstanding improvisers for the task. The title track (and its six reincarnations) specifies only a minimal harmonic framework: it's up to trumpeter Charles McGhee and bassist Richard Davis to interpret Stadler's sparse written arrangements into melody and harmony. McGhee plays short, linear fragments which frequently alternate with bass melodies. Bassist Richard Davis, who has experience with everything from Stravinsky to Dolphy, lends a particular versatility to the suite. Drummer Brian Brake, a Stadler alumnus, plays nonobtrusively but sensitively, helping along the bebop, out-rock, and Latin feels of the different sections. The original 1975 rendition of "Jazz Alchemy" specified only a trumpet part, but along the way Stadler made the welcome addition of a rhythm section.

The most piercingly brilliant performances on Jazz Alchemy are two tracks delivered by pianist Marilyn Crispell and bassist Reggie Workman, who are experienced collaborators. They approach Stadler's composition "Three Problems" (Faulkner's all-important trio of money, love, and death) with a highly ironic flair. While Workman serves up a steady series of grooves, Crispell defies the force of conformity by punching out clusters and rapid scalar runs. Just when you think you recognize regular piano work over a walking bass line, Workman or Crispell head off in a different direction. It's this constant give-and-take pull that provides so much interest for the duo portions of Jazz Alchemy.

Pianist Joshua Pierce applies a twisted, harmonically challenging approach to the solo versions of "Three Problems." He leaps from sparse, bright, punchy lines to dark, harsh, pedaled chords. His solo performances illustrate the ultimate irony: Pierce applies a free improv-based style to partially arranged material. It's hard to tell if his playing more closely resembles modern classical or free jazz. Rarely does he allow a singing melody to appear; instead, fragments and clusters pop up intermittently, leaving the listener to perform the reconstruction.

With this multiplicity of approaches, there are bound to be plenty of moments where the listener ends up scratching his head and wondering what's going on. That may be the Stadler's goal: he certainly isn't striving to reproduce any obvious jazz idiom, but instead a series of partial fragments framed within his chosen context. Forthislistener, Jazz Alchemy is a constant process of discovery and rediscovery: jazz transformed into something palpably different.

Contact Labor Records at LaborRec@aol.com.


Track Listing: Jazz Alchemy: Still Bebop; Three Problems (duo version 2); Jazz Alchemy: The Nod; Three Problems (solo version 1); Jazz Alchemy: Out-Rock; Jazz Alchemy: Self-portrait; Three Problems (solo version 2); Jazz Alchemy: Brooding; Three Problems (duo version 1); Jazz Alchemy: Latin Gretchen; Three Problems (solo version 3).

Personnel: Charles McGhee: trumpet(s); Richard Davis, bass; Brian Brake, drums; Marilyn Crispell, piano; Reggie Workman, bass; Joshua Pierce, piano.

Title: Jazz Alchemy | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Labor Records


Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Saluting Sgt. Pepper CD/LP/Track Review Saluting Sgt. Pepper
by Karl Ackermann
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Thick as Thieves CD/LP/Track Review Thick as Thieves
by Jack Bowers
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Dream Within A Dream CD/LP/Track Review Dream Within A Dream
by Ian Patterson
Published: June 22, 2017
Read Live At The High Noon CD/LP/Track Review Live At The High Noon
by Doug Collette
Published: June 22, 2017
Read As It Should Be: Ballads 2 CD/LP/Track Review As It Should Be: Ballads 2
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: June 21, 2017
Read Karoujite CD/LP/Track Review Karoujite
by John Eyles
Published: June 21, 2017
Read "The Long Journey Home" CD/LP/Track Review The Long Journey Home
by James Nadal
Published: March 17, 2017
Read "A Social Call" CD/LP/Track Review A Social Call
by James Nadal
Published: May 25, 2017
Read "Hotel Cinema" CD/LP/Track Review Hotel Cinema
by Glenn Astarita
Published: August 3, 2016
Read "Migration Blues" CD/LP/Track Review Migration Blues
by Chris Mosey
Published: March 26, 2017
Read "Urban Soul" CD/LP/Track Review Urban Soul
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 20, 2017
Read "Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974" CD/LP/Track Review Panthalassa: The Music Of Miles Davis 1969-1974
by Sacha O'Grady
Published: December 23, 2016

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.