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Gebhard Ullmann / Steve Swell / Hilliard Greene / Barry Altschul: We're Playing In Here?

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Gebhard Ullmann / Steve Swell / Hilliard Greene / Barry Altschul: We're Playing In Here?
For musicians, one consolatory by-product of lockdown was the chance to reappraise the archives, which led to a subsequent bonanza of deserving material reaching the marketplace. Whether that was the genesis of the limited edition LP We're Playing In Here? is a moot point, but this 2007 studio recording by the Gebhard Ullmann / Steve Swell Quartet certainly more than justifies release. It is the fourth album by what was a cracking band, although it actually predates the outfit's second outing News? No News! (Jazzwerkstat, 2010) by over a year.

Completing the cast alongside reedman Ullmann and trombonist Swell are bassist Hilliard Greene and storied drummer Barry Altschul; all seasoned performers, even at this juncture, together they shared a spellbinding rapport. The strength of the connection between Ullmann and Swell can be intuited from their later ongoing collaborations, not only in co-operative The Chicago Plan, heard to fine effect on For New Zealand (NotTwo, 2022), but also through the trombonist's long tenure in Ullmann's Basement Research combo.

Apart from the first and last cuts, most of the numbers here are new. But, of course, the charts are only one part of the equation and arguably not the most important element when considering such accomplished soloists. The swinging opener "Planet Hopping On A Thursday Afternoon," which also appeared on Swimming In A Galaxy Of Goodwill And Sorrow (Rogue Art, 2007) by Swell's Fire Into Music foursome, acts as a potent how-do-you-do with a series of individual contributions, starting with Altschul's timbrally eloquent introduction, through Ullmann's curdled, viscous, twisting tenor feature and Swell's typically wonderful amalgam of line and shape.

With its explosive free-for-all coda, the same piece also signposts another of the gang's assets, the assured collective interplay, whether illustrated by the astute way Altschul echoes a reed stutter on his snare, or the rambunctious exchange between the horns at the beginning of "Kleine Figuren #1," for example, a tune also rendered on Ullmann's Don't Touch My Music Volume 2 (NotTwo, 2008). Greene often supplies the golden thread, be that laying the relaxed foundation of the breathy textural title track, or the infectious pulse on the staccato "Sketch #4," though he still steps out with aplomb when given the opportunity, twanging, resonant and flickering, on the alternately somber and skipping "La Mariposa."

All of this is just scratching the surface. There are many more captivating passages, both fiery and haunting, to discover on an album which serves as a welcome reminder of how good this group could be.

Track Listing

Planet Hopping On A Thursday Afternoon; La Mariposa; Sketch #4; We're Playing In Here?; Kleine Figuren #1.

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Gebhard Ullmann: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet.

Album information

Title: We're Playing In Here? | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: NoBusiness Records


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