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Total Music Association: Walpurgisnacht


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German free jazz enjoys a celebrated history. But while the likes of Peter Brötzmann, Alexander von Schlippenbach and Albert Mangelsdorff are among the marquee names, there's a whole other strata of lesser known entities. Among them is the short-lived Total Music Association, whose only LP, Walpurgisnacht, constitutes a revelatory reissue by the Lithuanian NoBusiness imprint. It is just the latest in a line of archival releases which also include Complete Recordings (2020) by Modern Jazz Quintet Karlsruhe (MJQK) and Frictions Now (2015) by Free Jazz Group Wiesbaden.

The moving force behind the outfit, and the sole composer, saxophonist Hans-Jörg Hussong, worked with a core membership comprising trombonist Andreas Boje, bassist Matthias Boje, and drummer Rudi Theilmann, occasionally augmented by others. Also on board for the date are two of Theilmann's colleagues from the MJQK, pianist Helmut Zimmer and reedman Wilfried Eichhorn, as well as violist Erich Schröder. Recorded in 1971, at the same studio as many of the initial ECM sessions, the album presents two sidelong numbers which splice duo and trio inventions with group tutti and written fragments such as unison phrases and riffs, in what at the time was a ground-breaking combination.

While there are some fine individual moments, such as the interplay between the leader's excitable bass clarinet and Boje's supple pizzicato bass, and the chamber inclined exchanges between viola and bass in the title track, it is the vibrant collective execution of the overall concept which grabs the ear most.

Cut from the same cloth, the episodic B side "Incubus -Succubus -Pestilentia," spotlights different ingredients, such as the encounter between breathy trombone and Hussong's murmuring soprano saxophone, Eichhorn's quest for the extremes on tenor saxophone bolstered by bass and drums, a viola solo which recalls Ornette Coleman's approach to the violin in its favouring of energy and texture, and a kinetic piano passage by Zimmer which has echoes of early Cecil Taylor.

With a playing time of just a tad over half an hour, the remastered material has been supplemented by a live recording from seventeen years later by a trio which matches Hussong and bassist Boje with drummer Willi Schneider. The 20-minute piece entitled "Improvisation" has a similar modus operandi as the previous cuts, but there's a more practiced integration of the various elements and the cumulative effect comes as less of a shock. Hussong's forward facing reeds blend careening overblowing and throaty squeals with more conversational, even lyrical, fare, while the rhythm section which sometimes veers into funk-inflected propulsion and martial boogaloos is more of its time.

Nonetheless the reissued original acts as a reminder of the breadth and depth of the nascent European free scene and remains well worth hearing by anyone seeking unusual perspectives on what over time has proven fertile territory.

Track Listing

Walpurgisnacht; Incubus - Succubus - Pestilentia; Improvisation.


Additional Instrumentation

Andreas Boje: trombone (1, 2); Wilfried Eichhorn: bass clarinet, tenor saxophone(1, 2) ; Hans-Jörg Hussong: baritone, tenor, alto, soprano saxophones; Erich Schröder: viola (1, 2); Helmut Zimmer: piano (1, 2); Matthias Boje: bass; Rudi Theilmann: drums (1, 2); Willi Schneider: drums (3).

Album information

Title: Walpurgisnacht | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: NoBusiness Records

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