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Norbert Stein: We Are

Glenn Astarita By

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Venerable German saxophonist, composer Norbert Stein's various ensemble manifestations draw inspiration from the work of 19th century scientist, Dr. Faustroll who developed the 'pata physics' theory, defined as a science centered on "unreal logic." Here, the artist leads a quartet under the moniker "Pata Messengers," which is a semi-free program framed on linear thematic sequences that contain underlying melodic content with spacious intervals and rhythmically complex unison runs.

Certain works spark notions of Ornette Coleman's harmolodic principles as melodies, phrasings and cadences are executed with knotty and soaring lines via forward moving passages. Yet the band also puts the musical transmission in reverse as a means of intimating a different perspective on a core plot. It's a nifty concept that garners additional interest throughout.

Many of these pieces share similar attributes. It's akin to a lengthy suite designed with alternating subplots amid robust improvisational exchanges. For example, on "Diatonic Upanishad," Etienne Nillesen—who solely performs on a prepared snare drum and cymbal—stays on top of the pulse to incorporate a sense of urgency for Stein and pianist Philip Zoubek's swirling currents, refreshed with a playful motif and ascending choruses. However, "What We Are" is a medium-tempo bop anchored by bassist Joscha Oetz's supple support and energized by Stein's brusque attack, sweetened by a touch of vibrato and fluent single note flurries as the band systematically pick up the pace.

"Mellstones" boasts a memorable hook and an uplifting trajectory, as the final piece "Friendship," is an 'amicable' one-minute ballad that finalizes the program on a temperate footnote. Here and throughout, Stein transparently morphs avant-garde inclinations into an uncanny form of conventional wisdom.

Track Listing: Perfume; Gondwana & Pangea; Diatonic Upanishad; El Fado; What We Are; Polarity; Mellstones; Friendship.

Personnel: Norbert Stein: tenor saxophone; Philip Zoubek: piano; Joscha Oetz: double bass; Etienne Nillesen: prepared snare drum + cymbal.

Title: We Are | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: PATA Music

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