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Multi-reedman Frank Gratkowski is a shrewd operator from almost all conceivable angles. And on Le Vent et la Gorge, the stylizations of drummer Gerry Hemingway's fabled quartet weave in and out of the full spectrum. Of course, this component is factored in by the drummer's appearance along with Hemingway's longtime band-mate, Dutch trombonist Wolter Wierbos, lending his wares as well. Ultimately, it's Gratkowski's hyper-inventive mindset that elevates this program towards its zenith, especially considering similar 2012 releases by others.
The quartet seamlessly bridges modern classical with the avant-garde jazz strata from a structural and improvisational platform. It also engages in some fun and frolic. At times, the leader swashes a path of destruction via boisterous sax choruses, but uncannily conveys a hidden beauty of sorts while doing so. When dishing out off-center rhythms, the band also executes fractured jazz-funk vamps amid Wierbos' ravaging solo spots. Add a few rather bewildering microtonal exercises and the set is literally a wide-ranging study in disparate contrasts and accentuates the musicians' cunning interactions.
The seventeen-minute "Le Vent et la Gorge" is a mind-boggling incursion, where the quartet imparts a nip and tuck pulse and enacts a tightrope-like balancing act as a suspenseful aura hovers above the proceedings. Here, Gratkowski's eerie sax overtones offset the alternating momentum. However, the group switches gears as Hemingway's dainty percussion grooves help transform matters into a near hypnotic state. The soloists explore multiple tonal ranges, abetted by Gratkowski's use of bass clarinet and acting as a mediator during a bit of band-induced angst. Moving forward, the quartet's turbulent shifts in tempo transform into punchy, odd-metered detoursa signature stylization of Hemingway's timekeeping mechanics. A magnum opus, Le Vent et la Gorge complements the quartet's multilateral tactics as an album that looms as one of Gratkowski's crowning achievements.
Track Listing: Harm-oh-nie; Le Vent et la Gorge; Lied/Song; GO!; The Flying Dutchman.
Personnel: Frank Gratkowski: alto saxophone, clarinet, bass and contrabass clarinet, composition; Wolter Wierbos: trombone; Dieter Manderscheid: double bass; Gerry Hemingway: drums.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.