Thursday, March 07, 2019

Gebhard Ullmann Basement Research - Impromptus and Other Short Works (WhyPlayJazz, 2019)

The most current lineup of Basement Research is leader Gebhard Ullmann on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, Steve Swell on trombone, Julian Arg├╝elles on baritone saxophone, Pascal Niggenkemper on bass and Gerald Cleaver on drums. They recorded eleven Ullmann compositions, blending modern jazz and contemporary methods of composition. "Twelve Tones - Impromptu #5" has abstract sounding horns with saxophones swirling about like predatory birds as the bass and drums kick in. They build an uptempo five piece improvisation with trombone and one saxophone in each stereo channel, and the bass, drums and remaining saxophone in the middle, making for a wide sound stage for a powerful collectively improvised section. Ullman takes a nice tenor saxophone solo supported by sturdy bass before leading the full band to a rousing conclusion. Fading in already in progress, "29 Shoes" finds the band chugging away with slashing drums and strong horn riffs. There is a fine use of tension inducing loud / quiet dynamic sections, pulling into a faster and meatier section for tenor saxophone and taut bass framed by the other horns and leading to an exciting full band section taken at high speed. Space opens up for a crackling drums and bass duet section, with the horns re-entering in a brawny fashion to help ease the tune out. "Lines - Impromptu #2" has choppy horns and and rhythm in a tight formation, alternating with spacey sections that have an edgy, uneasy calm. The horns and percussion stomp mightily, playing in a highly reactive manner, while the hushed quiet will fall for an instrument, in this case puckered trombone, nudged by spare percussion and bowed bass. Strong horns try to wrestle away the moment but are they are denied as the piece closes with a sense of quiet abstraction. A tight, fast thematic statement opens "Sticks - Impromptu #4" with the bass and drum developing from the expansive theme to a powerhouse drum solo that slaloms around jagged horn interjections, and the horns harmonize together achieving a deep and weighty sound, allowing the drums and bass freedom to roam. "Almost Twenty-Eight" closes the album with a swirling horn theme, as crisp bass and drums drive forward the angular but exciting formation. The rhythm section will occasionally cut out to allow the horns to soar, particularly Ullman's dramatic bass clarinet playing, which provides a vividly colorful solo over bass and drums while the remainder of the horns keep pace. This was a well done and exciting album, the group's eighth over the course of twenty five years with little sign of fatigue. Inspired by the likes of Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, and Charles Lloyd the band uses their accomplishments as a challenge to explore the unknown and carve out their own path. Impromptus and Other Short Works -

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