If ever there was evidence of a prejudice against European jazz players, it is the fact that trombonist Albert Mangelsdorff (1928-2005) never before had a tribute album done in his honor. Even more damning is research showing that his compositionsover a hundredhave never been played without him.
Trombonist Joe Fiedler has ended this sorry streak with a wonderful homage to a musician who is underappreciated in this country. The only bittersweet thing about the disc is its recording date: November 2003. Released now, it serves as reminder of a great loss for jazz, rather than as an accolade to the living.
The only explanation for the dearth of Mangelsdorff in standard jazz repertoire is that he was too much of a unique voice. To play his tunes requires mastery of full-bodied, warm lyrical playing and a harmonic sense exceeded by no other trombonist. So to do a tribute would be to scale an insurmountable mountain. But Fiedler is not here to recreate Mangelsdorff. He is his own player, with his own abilities, who is paying a debt that's long-owed by anyone who plays the instrument.
Fiedler chooses the trio format from Mangelsdorff's two most known albums (The Wide Point with Elvin Jones and Trilogue with Jaco Pastorius) for this effort with bassist John Hebert and drummer Mark Ferber. The material is drawn from the '60s quintet to the '80s duo with Wolfgang Dauner. Fiedler, while he doesn't copy Mangelsdorff, brings that amazing sonority he had; Hebert often sounds like Günter Lenz from Mangelsdorff's early groups; and Ferber recalls both Mangelsdorff's post bop and post-fusion periods.
Of course there is the solo trombone piece and demonstrations of Mangelsdorff's multiphonics. But this album is not a technical exercise. It fêtes what made Mangelsdorff such an enduring presence: his compositions. These are timeless, sparkling themes that deserve more than one more go around.
Wheat Song; Rip Off; Now Jazz Ramwong; An Ant Steps On An Elephant's Toe; Mayday Hymn; Lapwing; Zores Mores; Wart G'Schwind; Do Your Own Thing.
Joe Fiedler: trombone; John Hebert: bass; Mark Ferber: drums.
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