Saturday, September 29, 2012

Variations On The Canon

Evan Parker and Georg Graewe, 
Dortmund Variations
Nuscope Recordings

Evan Parker - Tenor Saxophone
Georg Graewe - Piano

No one has conquered the demands of free improv like Evan Parker. And while at this stage of his career you pretty much know what to expect from him, his mastery of the idiom still makes it a pleasure to hear one of his performances. Dortmund Variations, recorded as part of a Graewe-curated Ruhr 2010 series, consists of three improvisations lasting from eleven to thirty-seven minutes. Parker sticks with tenor throughout, and he and Graewe engage in meaningful conversation that is characterized by subtle shifts in emphasis and tone rather than demonstrative displays of emotion. Think of a stream that’s polished the stones below as opposed to waves crashing over coral. (Wow, I’m going to have to work on my analogies!) Graewe’s notes unspool at a pretty consistent pace, and that’s my one quibble with the performance; a little more contrast from him would have benefited the whole. Still, it’s a dialogue that’s worth listening in on – and attention to the shades of meaning proves a rewarding experience.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

New From Nils

Nils Wogram Septet, Complete Soul
NWog Records

Nils Wogram - trombone
Stephan Meinberg - trumpet
Claudio Puntin - clarinet
Frank Speer - alto sax
Tilman Ehrhorn - tenor sax
Steffen Schorn - bass clarinet, baritone sax
John Schröder - drums

An unusual lineup from Nils, 4 reeds, 2 brass plus drums. From the description on the site of his new self-owned label, I gather he wrote and arranged all the selections. As he puts it, "...the horns mix such that one attains these organ-like sounds. The chords function as a whole and do not simply result in six tones that somehow blend together."

The compositions on Soul have a circular feel to them, like you're hearing a different facet each time a section comes back into view. Some reminded me of the way Mingus arranged for horns, with the prominent trombone and the languid bluesy feel. Other compositions had more of a Balkans influence to them. There are sections where the drums lay out that emphasize the wind ensemble, and other sections that have a lot of rhythmic drive. It's a record that I immediately played again after it finished, because I wanted to figure out what was going on.

This is one of the strongest albums I've heard from Wogram, and it could be the start of a new chapter in his career, as I haven't heard arrangements this complex and engaging from him before.

Nils Wogram & Simon Nabatov, Moods & Modes
NWog Records

Nils Wogram - trombone
Simon Nabatov - piano

No one brings out the best in Nils Wogram's playing like Simon Nabatov. This is at least the third duo album the two have recorded, and it's a little jem. Rather than being freely-improvised, Moods & Modes splits compositional duties between the two of them, with 4 selections from Wogram and 5 from Nabatov. It's a joy to hear two artists so closely in sync, whether playing themes in unison or engaging in spirited back- and- forth exchanges in the improvised sections.