FRANK GRATKOWSKI / GEORG GRÄWE / PAUL LOVENS
Usually thought of as members of so-called EuroImprov that's supposed
to take as much from New music as Afro American jazz, pianist Georg Gräwe
and multi-reedman Frank Gratkowski appear to more and more be linked to
the ongoing tradition of free jazz.
Perhaps it's because of the association they have with American musicians.
Both have organized different touring groups that include drummer Gerry
Hemingway, while, Gräwe also has many Chicago contacts, having spent
several months living in that city a few years ago.
More likely it's because in resolving their unique musical identities
the two have decided that these sorts of improvised sounds are what they
prefer -- and do best. Certainly this CD, recorded with fellow German,
drummer Paul Lovens, is a choice example of the expanding improv tradition.
In fact, one could compare it favorably with sessions recorded by Lovens
long standing trio with German pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach and
British saxophonist Evan Parker. Despite the session's title, though,
none of the musicians are ever near sinking into the fatal quicksand of
Certainly these four instant compositions recorded in Cologne a couple
of years ago, pinpoint the strong rapport the reedist and pianist have
developed in the almost 10 years they've been working together in both
duo and larger settings. Gräwe's work is more consistent, depending
for the most part on laying down a carpet of free flowing whole notes,
seemingly circling around the tunes as he dots the '"i"s and
crosses the "t"s of Gratkowski's improvisations.
It's another matter all together for the reed player. He seems to have
developed a different persona for each of his horns. On dark-hued clarinet,
he exploits its woody properties, creating a liquid, clear, almost -"legit"
tone, but one that is occasionally as breathy as a teenage girl on her
first date. Sometimes he'll introduce a few reed squeaks on the black
stick, but that's nothing like the protracted howling and whooping that
comes from his alto saxophone.
What he produces on that horn is what was called energy music in the 1960s.
Usually, as well, the pianist's seemingly meandering keyboard explorations
and the percussionist's heavy bass drum accents positively compliment
these explosions. When bass clarinet does make its appearance, its tone
ranges from legato to growled multiphonics, a veritable half sibling to
each of the other woodwinds.
As for Lovens, he's been in the thick of improv grab bags like this since
the early 1970s. Over the years he's developed the versatility to back
such theatrical performers as American guitarist Eugene Chadbourne and
Italian altoist Mario Schiano as well as more cerebral improvisers like
Canadian flugelhornist Kenny Wheeler and Parker with the same competent
sang froid. Master of the well-placed percussive emphasis at any tempo,
speed or volume, he functions throughout as a veteran team member, though
it is hard to discern the contribution of his singing saw.
All in all Quicksand is a memorable example of modern German unification.
-- Ken Waxman
Track Listing: 1.Showers; 2.Green fuse; 3.Crooked rose; 4.Second coming
Personnel: Frank Gratkowski, alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet;
Georg Gräwe, piano; Paul Lovens, percussion, singing saw