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Meet Saxhophonist/Clarinetist Gebhard Ullmann

Glenn Astarita By

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Naturally, I can only judge the differences between the types of musicians from both sides of the Atlantic in my own projects... I think it is less important where a musician comes from as opposed to whether or not he or she also is a composer.
Submitted by Glenn Astarta on behalf of Vittorio Lo Conte for AAJ:Italy.

All About Jazz: Regarding your CD Kreuzberg Park East - Will you keep developing your musical ideas with this group in the future?

Gebhard Ullmann: The CD Kreuzberg Park East was an advancement of my composition concept for quartet (two horns and piano-less rhythm section). While I composed all the music for the first CD Basement Research in Berlin, everything on Kreuzberg Park East are new compositions and arrangements I wrote in Brooklyn. The recording took place in NYC following a European tour, so that the band could explore additional free spaces inside the arrangements while on tour. With regard to those free spaces, there are flowing transitions between composed and improvised passages in many of my compositions. Based upon the strength and aesthetics of the composed sections, I confidently and gladly leave many free spaces to the performing musicians, whose contributions I may later take in and transform into new compositions or arrangements of the pieces. In this case I could write additionally for specific musicians, which gave part of the direction for me as a composer. On the other hand I also like to lead the players to new musical frontiers.

On Kreuzberg Park East I completely describe determined tendencies, situations, and memories from the two cities in which I live: NYC and Berlin. For example, the title piece is the description of one Sunday afternoon in the park opposite my former apartment in Berlin. "The T.T. Walk" is inspired by a journey to Trinidad and Tobago. "Almost Twenty Eight" is a description of different simultaneous impressions from NYC. "Blaues Lied" ("Blue Song") is my nod to the blue musical tradition. This colour again emerges with "Blue Trees and Related Objects" from the tradition of painting. "Flutist With Hat and Shoe" is the description of a picture and "Meltema" is another dear song which is quite personal.

New music and compositional concepts emerged during the writing of the music too. These centered around investigating the interactive aspects of sound between bass clarinet and double bass and also between Eskelin's and my tenor saxophones. It also occurred from using the highly intuitive rhythm work of Drew Gress and Phil Haynes and in exploring new notation/composition techniques in transatlantic musical idioms such as Blues/Gospel, Waltz, or Tango.

AAJ: You perform in Germany with Guenter Lenz' "Springtime". Since Bob Degen returned to the USA, which are the perspectives of this group? Do you find that the music you perform with European and US musicians does go in different directions?

GE: The "Guenter Lenz Springtime" is an interesting group which spans styles, generations and geographical regions. Dieter Glawischnig has taken over the piano chair of Bob Degen. Guenter wrote new music for this occasion, which was already recorded during a concert in May.

Naturally, I can only judge the differences between the types of musicians from both sides of the Atlantic in my own projects. For me, my compositions have always been very important, on the other hand I also feel comfortable in open concepts with a minimum of arrangements. I think it is less important where a musician comes from as opposed to whether or not he or she also is a composer.

One example: I very deliberately contrast the quartet "Conference Call" (with Michael Stevens, Joe Fonda, Matt Wilson) to the Trio with Carlo Bica and Sylvie Courvoisier. In addition, Conference Call undertook a tour with Han Bennink this year. Although there maybe boundaries they fade away more and more.

If it comes to the musicians maybe the main difference is their reference to different traditions and their free sometimes wild handling of the given material as being contrary to compositional concepts. However, one must clearly state that many exceptions to the rule are acknowledged. I feel at home both here and there (geographically and musically) and would like to explore both in my own ways.

The trio format: After operating intensively for several years with my ten-piece woodwind/accordion project "Ta Lam Zehn" I began a set of projects which placed a number of different trios into the focal point. In these projects spontaneity is maximized and the presentation of myself as a player and improviser is the quintessential point. After the CD Clarinet Trio (LeoLab 058), the trio of Ullmann/Bica/Thomas released the CD Essencia in June 2001 on Between The Lines. In Autumn 2000 there was a recording with Chris Dahlgren and Peter Herbert (both double bass) and myself on bass flute and bass clarinet called "Bassx3" which still is an ongoing project. Also, I'm working in a trio with Chris Dahlgren (bass, electronics) and Jay Rosen (percussion). All of these projects develop from a pool of ideas and musicians and are quite "transatlantic."

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