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Urs Leimgruber: Chicago Solo, Albeit, Willisau, Aurona Arona

Gordon Marshall By

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Urs Leimgruber

Chicago Solo

Leo

2010


Urs Leimgruber

Albeit

Jazzwerkstatt

2010


OM

Willisau

Intakt

2010


Ember

Aurona Arona

Creative Sources

2010


Swiss saxophonist Urs Leimgruber has a watchmaker's sense of time. His works create the sense of listening to a watch's inner workings up close, with his collaborators coming in on cue with the surety of little weights and wheels. Four new releases—two quartets, a trio and a solo—offer an opportunity to catch the master, born in 1952, at a point where he is at the top of his game but still evolving, rife with fresh ideas.

Chicago Solo works in the circular breathing mode of such other European sax players as Evan Parker and John Butcher. However, Leimgruber does not work against the grain the way the latter two do. For most of the first, 27-minute track on soprano, he barely touches ground. Lacking concrete effects as growls and squawks, his playing is more like one long, varied singing note of a boiling kettle. The solo is unique for seeking out the disembodied source of the beauty of sound, apart from concomitant noise. He picks up tenor for the 19-minute middle track. As distinct from his soprano effort, he works with the tenor's inherent earthiness, creating counter-rhythms between taps on the stops and overblowing on the reed. But again, he is not seeking to turn the instrument inside out, but working with the concepts of tone and time.

Albeit, with bassist Barre Phillips and pianist Jacques Demierre, furthers the exploration of time, even problematizing it. Phillips' bass is at the thematic core of this outing. The natural unwieldiness of the instrument weight down piano and sax, however fast these other two run. Until the very last track, the tempo is rubato. The glacial pace borders on distressing and disturbing but glorious sonorities crop up in the process, the three instruments often sounding as one in tone and timbre. Leimgruber keeps focus on tonal purity and transparency here, but with a different take on time, where delay leads to qualification and a renewed understanding of beauty.

Willisau is a reunion concert of the great '70s band OM, with Christy Doran (guitar), Bobby Burri (bass) and Fredy Studer (drums). It begins with overlaid vocal incantations by the bandmembers, including each other's names. Even this simple effort foreshadows the temporal inventiveness at hand. Channeling heavy rock and free jazz, its dynamics are also impressive, quieting down for periods and then reawakening into bouts of funk. Far from the orgy of a band such as Last Exit, everything is calibrated here, Studer's spot-on percussive punctuation particularly noteworthy.

On Aurona Arona, the quartet Ember brings Leimgruber together with electronics and organ and piano and violin, as well as drums (Alexander Schubert, Oliver Shwerdt and Christian Lillinger, respectively). Things get almost wacky here, with the Monk-ian syncopation exaggerated on the exotic instrumentation. As always with Leimgruber, however, this is never for the sake of novelty. Crosscurrents and undercurrents abound, leaving assorted artifacts of sound in their circulation.

Leimgruber thinks through music, as most improvisers do, but there is a philosophical dimension at work, wherein he reflects on the value of time—which implies not least of all the time spent listening to music. Music of Leimgruber's rigor shows us how, rather than waste it, time grows out of this listening.

Tracks and Personnel

Chicago Solo

Tracks: One; Two; Three.

Personnel: Urs Leimgruber: tenor and soprano saxphone.

Albeit

Tracks: Albeit; Tiebla; Eatlib; Itable; Baleti; Etabli; Abteil; Ilbeat.

Personnel: Urs Leimgruber: soprano and tenor saxophone; Jacques Demierre: piano; Barre Phillips: Double Bass.

Willisau

Tracks: Part I; Part II; Part II; Part IV; Part V; Part VI; Part VII; Part VIII; Part IX; Part X; Part XI; Part XII.

Personnel: Urs Leimgruber: soprano and tenor saxophone; Christy Doran: electric guitar, devices; Bobby Burri: double-bass, devices; Fredy Studer: drums, percussion.

Aurona Arona

Tracks: aruna aurora; flaudanne cllltk; oud shhhd aiier; begen bginn fllt; etherlorbien.

Personnel: Urs Leimgruber: soprano and tenor saxophone; Alexander Schubert: electronics, violin; Oliver Shwerdt: piano percussion, organ; Christian Lillinger: drums, percussion.

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