A clarinet trio is a chamber trio comprising a clarinet, a bowed string instrument such as a violin, viola or cello, and a piano; the phrase can also refer to a composition written for such a trio. However, away from such matters, The Clarinet Trio is the name of a three-clarinet group which first recorded together on October 1st 1998, in Berlin, the resulting album, Oct. 1, '98, having been released on the Leo Lab label in 1999. The first version of the group featured the bass clarinets of Gebhard Ullmann and Theo Nabicht and the clarinet of Jürgen Kupke.
By the time the trio's third album, Ballads and Other Related Objects (Leo, 2005) was recorded in August 2003, the instrumentation and personnel of the trio had changed, with Michael Thieke on alto clarinet replacing Nabicht on bass clarinet. That line-up has remained unchanged ever since, despite Thieke being involved in other groups including The Magic I.D. and The International Nothing, both with fellow clarinetist Kai Fagaschinski.
Transformations and Further Passages is the trio's sixth album, their first since Live in Moscow (Leo, 2017) on which the trio were joined by guest Russian alto saxophonist Alexey Kruglov. On the trio's past albums, composing credits have tended to be dominated by Ullmann, with some pieces jointly credited to all three members. Here, things are very different, the album opening with a jointly credited piece and also including a brief solo track from each member; otherwise, the remaining ten compositions were chosen by the trio from German post-war jazz of the '50s and '60s and include adaptations of pieces by such luminaries as Joki Freund,Albert Mangelsdorff, Joachim Kuhn, Rolf Kuhn, Manfred Schoof, and Karl Berger.
Whatever material their performances are based on, the unavoidable facts about The Clarinet Trio are that the three different clarinet sounds fit together and complement one another perfectly; the three players display an almost telepathic understanding of one another's playing, based on nearly two decades of playing together as a trio; with no other instruments present, the clarinets do not just solo, but fulfil all the roles necessary to create a deep rich soundscape which is captivating from first note to last. As The Clarinet Trio approaches a quarter century of existence, this album is eloquent testimony to its ongoing success. Highly recommended.
Collective #13; Cleopatra; Tension / Varié; Golem; Solo #1; Virtue; Get Up – From Now On; Set ‘em Up;
Tune In; Solo #2; Don’t Run; Der Blues ist der König; Theme from Vietnam; Solo #3.
Jürgen Kupke: BЬ clarinet; Michael Thieke: alto clarinet; Gebhard Ullman: bass clarinet.
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