Basement Research's third CD comes in the wake of Gebhard Ullmann's 50th birthday. The band got started with Ellery Eskelin on tenor saxophone in 1993, before Tony Malaby replaced him in 1999and thus Malaby appears on this live recording from that year.
Ullmann is a man of many parts. He plays in several bands, all of them heavy hitters in the field of improvisation. What makes them potent is the way they essay improvisation into stimulating processes, constantly shifting and finding interesting tangents. This record proves that conclusively as the quartet takes Ullmann's compositions and turns them into a memorable adventure.
The four players get off to a sparring start as they weave rings around each other in the quiet introspection on "Blaues Lied, before they find the blues. The pace continues to be sombre: Ullmann takes the tune out on the tenor saxophone, laying the melody open and bringing in dramatic turns and twists. He forges new ideas on the go as he changes pitch and direction. When Malaby comes in, the atmosphere opens up and the two horns shoot some tensile lines, which evaporate as Malaby traverses new territory with a cogent solo on the melody.
Ideas continue to germinate as the recording proceeds. Ullmann moves to the bass clarinet on "Kreuzberg Park East. Shifts of time herald this tune, where Ullmann and Malaby engage in spirited exchanges that heat up as they go along. There is never a dull moment as the tension of the horns is leavened by the space created by bassist Drew Gress and drummer Phil Haynes, flexing the rhythm with light accents.
"New No Ness is a happy romp with Ullmann on the soprano, unfurling light and airy spirals. Malaby comes out and swings before he goes into an open-ended improvisatory run and cues in Ullmann and Gress, who cast intrigue with their turn of pace and direction. It is here that the Ullmann flips the tune into calmer waters; he churns the mix with darting lines before the group gets back together and rollicks off into the night.
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