The year 2007 marks multi-reedman Gebhard Ullmann's fiftieth birthday, and as part of the celebration, he has released New Basement Research
, a blistering and brutally propulsive record with a completely new group, and the fourth for this project.
The Basement Research project was started in 1995 with the pre-existing American trio comprised of saxophonist Ellery Eskelin
, bassist Drew Gress
and drummer Phil Haynes
. Two recordings were made by this group, Basement Research
(Soul Note, 1995) and Kreuzberg Park East
(Soul Note, 1999), with the latter making reference to his cross-continental influences. Tony Malaby
replaced Eskelin for the 1999 recording Live In Münster
(Not Two, 2006). This time however, Ullmann decided to both change and increase the personnel. Taking the spot of the competitive reed voice is Julian Argüelles
, who is well known for his work in Britain with the NDR Big Band on The Big Band Project
(Soul Note, 2005). Playing soprano and baritone saxophones, he adds even more bottom to complement Ullmann's on bass clarinet and tenor saxophone. Steve Swell
, who is the co-leader with Ullmann of the quartet on Desert Songs & Other Landscapes
(CIMP Records, 2004), adds his enormously free trombone energy to the mix, while bassist John Hebert and drummer Gerald Cleaver
provide powerhouse and almost physically solid rhythmic support.
The intensity level is set incredibly high on the opening "Dreierlei" when Hebert and Cleaver (who, arguably is more suited to this kind of drumming than Haynes) enter with a pounding, almost brutal rhythmic vamp. This is a killer track and a clear announcement of purpose, as the lows emerging from the "basement" surge and wash away all before them, as Ullmann completely lets go on bass clarinet.
"Gospel" starts with solo Ullmann on bass clarinet and the tension is almost unbearable as we wait to hear what is going to happen. What we get is an almost pure gospel choir sound with Ullmann, Argüelles and Swell each playing their hearts out. Ullmann's favorite tune, "D. Nee No," makes its eighth recorded appearance and the primal scream of the theme against the tango rhythm is something to behold, to say nothing of outrageous power of "Almost Twenty-Eight" that closes the record.
Ullmann's career is marked by the reworking of tunes from his book in different settings and the album feels like a summation of his work to date, but with the added twist of being as different from Die Blaue Nixe
(Between The Lines, 2006) as one can get.
The low end has always fascinated Ullmann, but his music has been marked by a delicacy coming from his harmonies and compositional structures. With New Basement Research
, Ullmann seems to be challenging that perceptionlet us get good speakers and revel in it!