German tenor saxophonist Norbert Stein is a distinguished composer and leader. He can prompt laughter, despair, and mesmerize the listener via regimented arrangements, sparked by difficult time signatures and multilayered sound mosaics. A self-described patamusician, inferring the Pataphysics movement started in 1948 by French playwright Alfred Jarry, Stein proffers an existential realm of thought, equated to Pata's science of imaginary solutions.
The artist's long-running band essentially pulls out the stops throughout this affair, brimming with attractive melodies, semi-classical discourses and free-form abstractions. Hence, masterful impressionism at work, as the musicians' institute a hodgepodge of soaring cadenzas amid a flexible and synchronous gait, where absolute power and melancholic tenderness enjoy an equal playing field.
One of Stein's trademark musical configurations pertain to the geometrical cadences, and unanticipated detours he unites into his compositional framework. His music is also linear and expansive in scope. For instance on "In a Man's Mind," the ensemble forges a free-form jazz and chamber vibe, driven by Michael Heupel's contemplative flute lines within a relatively simple harmonic format. Featuring intricate metrics the band toggles between convention and a nonconforming baseline. Space is used to launch an entry point for subsequent movements, catapulted by mini horns dialogues, restraint, or tonal shifts that provide vehicles for other sub-parts. However, it must be noted that Stein's music is by no means a train-wreck. It's primarily about the musicians' cohesion, whether steeped in swing, bop, and free-bop or lyrically charged thematic excursions, crowned by a formidable rhythmic unit and the hornists' dynamic exchanges.
"Nondual Action" is a piece built on a swaggering rock groove, intensified by harmonium performer Nicolao Valiensi's badass solo excursion, veering towards little big band type horns choruses. On "Dinka Mood," they fuse a swirling classical-jazz motif, hued with somber passages and topped off by Heupel's fiery phrasings as Stein's fluent lines help generate a sense of unbridled energy. This arrangement also includes Euro-folk stylizations and cascading thematic persuasions.
The album insert shows a photo of an automobile junkyard with demolished autos stacked high. Thus, Stein spins junk into gold with this supreme effort that entertains from start to finish. His muse is largely unclassifiable, deeply personalized and idiosyncratic and it would be a crying shame for modern jazz fans to let this gem slip through the cracks.
All Is No Thing; On the Cadillac; Cat Walk; In a Man´s Mind; Drifting; Nondual Action; The Gap; Dinka Mood; See You, Mara; Roter Mund, Verruecktes Fest (Red lips, weird party).
Norbert Stein: tenor saxophone, composition; Michael Heupel: flutes; Nicolao Valiensi: euphonium; Ryan Carniaux: trumpet; Georg Wissel: alto saxophone; Albrecht Maurer: violin; Joscha Oetz: double bass; Christoph Haberer: drums.
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