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Gebhard Ullmann: Vancouver Concert - Ta Lam Zehn

Budd Kopman By

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What a joy it is to listen to and be engulfed by Vancouver Concert - Ta Lam Zehn! Setting aside the music's roots in the stunning Ta Lam (99 Records, 1993) or the group's roots in Ta Lam Acht from Moritat (99 Records, 1994), this live recording's group energy, spark and good humor make it an outstanding achievement. This was a truly amazing performance by a group that is sharp as a tack, playing music that sweeps the audience away.

The Ta Lam Zehn group is basically the same as the Ta Lam Acht group but with multi reedman Dirk Englehardt being replaced by baritone saxophonist Hinrich Beerman, soprano and tenor saxman Daniel Erdmann and bass clarinet and soprano saxophonist Theo Nabicht (8 - 1 + 3 = 10).

The fact that this album is live takes it a step above Moritat in the feeling of spontaneity and a connection between the musicians and the audience. Every player who gets a chance to solo goes for it, and Ullmann's arrangements either allow the space or push the soloist to rise above the group behind him.

As is customary for Ullmann, most of the compositions have appeared before (the exception is an arrangement of Kurt Weill's "Speak Low"). Comparative listening only strengthens the case that Ullmann is a master arranger of compositions that do not lose their identity no matter what the setting (a comparison with J. S. Bach is not far fetched).

The level of drama evinced by each piece is so high that one might be convinced that these versions of the various tunes are the definitive ones. That which is identifiable as an Ullmann compositional methodology or arrangement strategy is on open display.

The part-writing can be quite complex while changing structure in a flash, and the group handles this with ease. Harmonies are never explicit (even on a normal "tune" like "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer"), but they always sound solid and directed. Rhythmically, the music can range from a very strong drive that might be labeled "Ullmann Swing" to pure sound painting which floats on air.

Furthermore, despite the amount of complexity and the thinking it evinces, Ullmann's music always has a level of humor and a directness that speaks to the listener, exposing the person behind the composition. By listening to Ullmann over the course of his releases, one can hear his life expressed in his music.

If the music of Ta Lam was a very special and unique achievement, its expression in the live Vancouver Concert as Ta Lam Zehn is life affirming.

Track Listing: Think Tank; Tapping the Foot, Tapping the Brain; Speak Low; Obersch

Personnel: Hinrich Beermann: baritone saxophone; Daniel Erdmann: soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone; Thomas Klemm: tenor saxophone, wooden flute; J

Title: Vancouver Concert - Ta Lam Zehn | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Leo Records

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