Thursday, October 31, 2019

Gebhard Ullmann - mikroPULS (Intuition Music, 2019)

Tenor saxophonist Gebhard Ullmann's latest album was conceived as way to connect to the blues, the roots from which jazz grew, and to which all four members of the band feel connected. Those members are: Hans Lüdemann on piano and virtual piano, Oliver Potratz on bass and Eric Schaefer on drums. The album opens with "Flutist with Hat and Shoe," a midtempo track, featuring saxophone, leading patient quartet jazz, and incorporating a short graceful piano solo, then sterner full band improvisation. Collective improvisation then becomes more open and free, opening to a bass and drums interlude which develops interesting rhythmic ideas. Unaccompanied bass playing opens "Enge Bewegung," allowing spacious piano and percussion build in, before the saxophone enters late, sounding haunted and bruised. The music becomes dramatic, with flourishes of piano and saxophone, lush piano solo heavy chords and strong drum backing. Finally there is a full band ending sounding off kilter and stressed. "F.J.D." has Ullman employing an lonely and hurt sounding saxophone tone, until the band enters and picks up the pace, with rich supple bass playing and a crisp drumbeat provides a firm foundation. The saxophone sound echoes, and musicians are trading ideas freely and without judgement, interweave spontaneous thoughts, building a fresh creating a powerful collective improvisation that really strides forward with purpose. Quavering saxophone and piano create a soft and delicate duo on "Human Body Upgrade" before the bass and drums enter and stoke the fire of the performance. There is a choppy dynamic between sections where the drums pushing things inexorably forward and areas of space and drift, but the Schaefer really takes center stage, playing very well, and creating propulsion and drive that also encourages the saxophonist to take flight. "Tanz der Mikroben" hits the ground running immediately with urgent tenor saxophone and passionate drumming, pushing rhythmic boundaries, aided by strong piano comping and elastic bass holding everything together. Ullman's saxophone is blazing punctuated by overblowing and then winding down, leaving an opening for piano and percussion to develop a strong sense of swing, with the bassist getting in on the act as well. The finale "Zeit Lupe" is a beautiful ballad with lush saxophone, gentle piano, soft brushes and delicate bass developing a deep timeless groove. The band is weaving their instruments lightly together, and their sounds effortlessly coalescing into one gently flowing groove. Ullman and the group are using a microtonal approach to develop different sounds and approaches to their improvisations, as an experiment and intellectual challenge. This helps them to keep their music fresh and ensures that they are engaged in their music, which works well and is compelling to hear. Mikropuls - amazon.com

Send comments to Tim.