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Matthias Schubert Quartet: Trappola

Troy Collins By

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In the heady climate of the 1970s loft jazz era, the fertile aesthetic common ground shared by Dixieland and free jazz was well documented by such notable innovators as Henry Threadgill, Anthony Braxton, Muhal Richard Abrams and the Art Ensemble of Chicago. German tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert continues this exploration on Trappola.

Schubert and the other members of his group—clarinetist Claudio Puntin, tuba player Carl Ludwig Hubsch and drummer Tom Rainey—share common histories, having often played together in various combinations over the past decade. Blending the raw communal expressionism of free jazz with the joyous punch of early Dixieland and European marching band music, they make a riotous postmodern noise, laced with a wicked sense of humor.

The quartet defies standard rules of traditional accompaniment; Hubsch offers support without being fully relegated to the role of bassist. Rainey similarly navigates his trap set, injecting melodic contours and colorful textures while he maintains the pulse. Schubert and Puntin lock horns, weaving endless variations on angular themes full of intertwining melodic fragments as they negotiate Rainey's thorny palpitations with tricky counterpoint and witty rejoinders.

Toying with stop-start rhythms ("Plus Minus"), austere chamber dynamics ("Statik and Penetranz") and riotous, circus-like fanfares ("Upgradeing"), the quartet blends a variety of approaches. "Soldaten" encapsulates the furthest reaches of the group's potential, vacillating between turbulent, Braxtonian march rhythms and spectral explorations that border on silence.

Collective improvisation alternates with expansive solo statements on Trappola. The leader's intervallic tenor is brawny and propulsive on "Soldaten" and the lumbering funk of the title track, which features Rainey throttling his kit with the same focused intensity that he delivers when accompanying Tim Berne. Rainey's solo statements and supportive fills blend seamlessly with his open-ended approach, sounding occasionally like one endlessly nuanced, driving improvisation. Hubsch contributes mesmerizing multiphonic solos, most notably on "Statik and Penetranz," while Puntin unveils a fertile blend of Old World lyricism and klezmer-inflected sarcasm on "Don Cordolone."

A lively rendition of Jelly Roll Morton's "Shreeveport Stomp" makes an appropriate cover choice, complementing the album's ancient-to-the-future aesthetic. Blending freewheeling structures, fervent improvisation and ironic humor with Old World traditions, Schubert and company lend a new wrinkle to the tried and true. Historical revisionism never sounded so good.

Track Listing: Plus Minus; Soldaten; Upgradeing; Statik and Penetranz; Shreeveport Stomp; Don Cordolone; Trappola; Brettspiel.

Personnel: Matthias Schubert: tenor sax; Claudio Puntin: clarinet; Carl Ludwig Hubsch: tuba; Tom Rainey: drums.

Title: Trappola | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Red Toucan Records

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