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Twenty-three tracks, twenty-two of which are less than five minutes long apiece, plus one that runs almost twelve minutes. A floating ensemble of never more than nine players or fewer than two on any one track. Vocalists, chittering, chattering, ululating ("Kip Torro!"). Trombonists, clarinets, cellists, and more. A vertiginous quality, so that a boffo reed solo on the first track is abruptly and inexplicably interrupted (this happens again later, with the obvious sound of the tape being stopped in favor of another). Piano crashes, internal and external, explode into the mist. Unison sections of mock-symphonic gravity ("Nach dieser Aufregung") appear out of nowhere, and return there. There's even a sort of twisted folk melody to top things off, featuring bouncing and non-ironic clarinet from Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky (the first part of "Scharfe Ränder").
You never quite feel as if you've got your feet on the ground with this one. About the only thing that can be said is that this recording contains the work of some stunningly gifted musicians, who can seamlessly weave free improvisation with classical elements and who knows what else. Pianist Bardo Henning is a powerful instrumentalist, cut out of his own cloth, with no one (except maybe the likes of Olivier Messiaen) to whom he owes any obvious debt. A gaggle of string players, notably violinist Wolfram Korr ("Das letzte Ölbild") perform with blazing intensity. Rudi Mahall is a Dolphyan but worthy bass clarinetist ("Heimliche Stufen").
The greatest accolades, however, must be reserved for Joachim Gies, whose quicksilver alto and clarinet ("Schatten auf den Hügeln") enliven all too few of these tracks. This is strange, reeling, mannered, eclectic music: not for everyone, but full of rewards for those who love music on the edge, expertly delivered.
Margarete Huber, Margreth Kammerer, Alex Nowitz, Wolfgang Ritthoff, voc; Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, sax, cl; Joachim Gies, sax, cl; J
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.