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Meet Saxhophonist/Clarinetist Gebhard Ullmann

Glenn Astarita By

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AAJ: Jazz in Germany, in the USA and Europe, what is it you would like to say about it?

GE: That is a common question which can hardly be answered in general. I really dig the new Berlin scene these days moving forward in all kinds of different directions. At the same time I enjoy very much to work with musicians from New York City. I always felt very connected with their aesthetics and intensity as well as the intensive search for "new sound, own sound" (that's here and there) The New York sound aesthetics does work great with my quartet music. The more orchestral "European" projects however I like to record in Berlin. In short: the world grows together in this field as well. There are as many great musicians here and there but more different cities in Europe they live in.

AAJ: In the meantime you released your new CD on Between the lines. Can you tell us something about it? How did it all start?

GE: These days all kinds of artists are moving to Berlin. So did Jens Thomas. When he hit the Berlin scene the duo in which we had met soon became a trio with Carlos Bica (they had played together before and I always wanted to do something with Carlos) Soon I got the feeling we should record the timbre of this trio. The translation of a variety of musical idioms into a language of one's own, the free and open approach to existing material, and the background of all three as improvisers AND composers are the cornerstones to the CD Essencia. This album is part of my ongoing series of trios described earlier. Added to this series now also is the work-in-progress project "Transitional Erasers" with Herb Robertson and Frank Moebus. "Essencia" also is the start of the trio with the same name featuring Carlos Bica (Lisbon/Berlin), Sylvie Courvoisier (New York/Lausanne) and myself (Brooklyn/Berlin). To me the geographical background seems to be quite remarkable as well.

AAJ: Is there a special reason for your work in trios? Would you also perform with an orchestra or solo?

GE: I always had a large musical interest in the trio format since it is an open concept, e.g. without bassist which for a bass clarinetist can be very interesting ("Trad Corrosion" with A. Willers, P. Haynes) but also the "opposite" with two bassists ("Bassx3" with P. Herbert and C. Dahlgren). On the other hand harmonic, rhythmic and melodic components are still presentable at the same time. For example, there was a co-operation with Andreas Willers and Lauren Newton in the eighties...

As far as large ensembles are concerned it was with great pleasure that this year I planned for a number of my works to be arranged for big band (for which I asked Satoko Fujii, Andy Emler, Chris Dahlgren and Guenter Lenz) and to be recorded with the NDR Big Band and myself as a soloist in February 2001.

My "solo project" was the recording of the first Tá Lam CD in 1991. However I must admit that I am presently thinking about a renewed solo project. It is very slowly growing on me though. For me each project is a type of compositional and conceptual challenge which I like to confront myself with - even if sometimes it does not work out 100% immediately. Maybe this is one principle of my musical work: to push a project to this certain level I heard in my head before and then maybe even parallel start something different, something new - taking the time for reflection but never standstill or even become repetitive.


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