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Gratkowski / Brown / Winant: Wake

Mark Corroto By

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California meets Germany happens to be the headline of this trio of Frank Gratkowski, William Winant, and Chris Brown. Maybe the story-behind-the-story here is that great minds think alike and great improvisers improvise, well...greatly.

German composer/reed musician Frank Gratkowski has been active on the European scene for the last 20 years. He has an affinity for strong pianist like George Graewe, Misha Mengelberg and Achim Kaufmann, and drummers including Gerry Hemingway and Tony Oxley. It seems natural that he would connect with pianist Chris Brown and percussionist William Winant. Both West Coast artists have been associated with Glenn Spearman and Larry Ochs of ROVA fame.

This live recording is from March 2007 at Mills College in Oakland. It opens with the lengthy, 25 minute "Slide," which starts out tentatively—acoustically very simple. The combination of Gratkowski's bass clarinet and Winant's vibraphone has a pleasing, swaddled sound. Brown also carries a percussive touch that compliments Winant. As tension builds, the introduction of electronics moves away from any sense of security. Odd sounds, repetition, and some welcome fuzz joins the mix. These three musicians never allow the electronics to dominate the affair, and throughout democracy reigns. The remainder of the tracks, all greater than 10 minutes in length, present organic creations of natural sound-making.

The trio permits the music to get a bit sentimental at times, and while the softer side of improvisation is rarely mined these days, it never gets sugary here. They simply have the diligence and humility to pursue some self-restraint and humility in their music.


Track Listing: Slide; Ambitus; Scrabble; Parallax; Archipelago.

Personnel: Frank Gratkowski: clarinet, bass clarinet, alto saxophone; Chris Brown: piano, live electronics; William Winant: vibraphone, percussion.

Title: Wake | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Red Toucan Records

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