Musicians are like all of us, in that who they are now is the sum total of their life experience up to that point. For a musician like multi-reedman Gebhard Ullmann, who has worked to create his own musical world, the past is still part of him and hence an album like Per-Dee-Doo
is the understandable desire to express the past in the present.
The tunes chosen will be familiar to most listeners and come from many different eras. What might give pause is the treatment the tunes are given, many of which are considered iconic. The energy level is very high and the band should be congratulated rather than castigated for playing what they feel rather than paying obeisance to some ossified past.
Bassist Martin Lillich and drummer Nikolaus Schäuble return from Ullmann - Rava - Willers - Lillich - Schauble
(Nabel, 1989), with guitarist Michael Rodach replacing longtime partner Andreas Willers. Why Rodach has replaced Willers is not known, but one possibility is that Ullmann wanted him precisely for the kind of overdrive in his playing that he does naturally .
Exploding as the first track is "Seven Come Eleven," a very tight, riff-based tune from clarinetist/bandleader Benny Goodman
and guitarist Charlie Christian
. Ullmann and the band play the melody very fast in unison, showing chops in the old style. Rodach then goes off into fusion land, turning the tune inside out, but Ullmann answers with an extremely outside, driving soprano sax solo, but in the original walking bass meterfantastic.
"Perdido," the Juan Tizol tune that was made famous by Flip Phillips
during the Jazz At Lincoln Center concerts in the forties, is treated very roughly with a funky back-beat that clashes with the straight theme. The effect is almost humorous and the question is, "Why not?"
The band switches gears entirely, or so it seems, with Sonny Rollins's charming "St. Thomas." Ullmann plays the tune sweetly on soprano only to be answered by an effects attack from Rodach, after which Ullmann responds with an outside, but melodically recognizable solo. The return to the original tune actually sounds quaint and again humorous.
Carla Bley's simple and touching "Ida Lupino" is played on the straight side, with some overdubbing by Ullmann on soprano commenting over the melody played by his tenor. The effects Rodach uses gives the track a feeling of a rock ballad, which actually does work.
The second half of Per-Dee-Doo
starts with a radically deconstructed version of Ellington's "Satin Doll." Initially, the back beat and free, microtonal playing sounds irreverent, but as it progresses, you can almost see Duke smiling and getting into it.
Ending the set is Hoagy Carmichael's "Georgia On My Mind" and is the strangest choice, but heck, we have come this far, so hang with Ullmann and get inside his head as he departs from the familiar, rather than playing originals.