Jazzensemble des Hessischen Rundfunks: Atmospheric Conditions Permitting (ECM 1549)

Jazzensemble des Hessischen Rundfunks
Atmospheric Conditions Permitting

Lee Konitz
Bill Frisell
Eberhard Weber
Tony Scott
Albert Mangelsdorff
Heinz Sauer
Wilhelm Liefland
Rainer Brüninghaus
Jaime Torres
Joki Freund
Paul Lovens
Bob Degen
Ralf Hübner
et al.
Recorded 1967-93, Hessischer Rundfunk, Frankfurt
Engineers: Peter Michael Erler, Holger Mees, Fritz Moehrke, Helmut Schick, Rainer Schulz, and Erich Wemheuer
Remixed 1994 at Gasteig Studio, München by Steve Lake
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by Ulrich Olshausen

Formed in 1958 by late trombone innovator Albert Mangelsdorff, the Frankfurt Jazz Ensemble had by the time of this recording produced one of the genre’s most sprawling archives, numbering some 2000 recorded pieces. Over the years, it has welcomed guest artists from abroad, including many of the ECM regulars featured in this tip-of-the-iceberg collection. Awarded the prestigious Hesse Jazz Award in 2009 for its invaluable contributions to the art, the Ensemble lives on for the home listener through the selections catalogued here. Drummer Ralf Hübner and saxophonist Heinz Sauer are the main compositional talents, and their passion shows in the ample room they leave for distinct soloing and other interpretive twists. The result is a 2.3-hour tour de force of gastronomic proportions spanning over a quarter century of activity.

Given the feast before us, one can only nosh on the wily clarinets of “Bagpipe Song” and the John Surman-esque touches of “Aud in den Wald” (with its palatable flavors of Rhapsody in Blue and big band pall) before getting our soup on with the rubber-banded bass and cascading pianism of “Niemandsland.” Bill Frisell lights up the air with his fluid wonders, cross-talking beautifully with Eberhard Weber’s fretless. From this we work our way up to such delectable starters as the harpsichord-inflected “Out Of June” and the chromatic “Stomp blasé.” What with the meditative spice of drummer Paul Lovens’s solo “Krötenbalz” and the contrasting sauciness of “Blues, Eternal Turn On,” there are plenty of main courses to choose from. Jazz critic Wilhelm Liefland’s poetry begins to unravel the meal’s moral and philosophical center in “Oben” and continues in “Schattenlehre,” thereby setting up the chewier textures of “Repepetitititive.” A veritable Ferris wheel in sound replete with spacey glitter and gold, it refills our wine glasses with “Fährmann Charon,” ending the first disc with children’s games and a jester’s twisting lips in the night.

Argentine master Jaime Torres smoothes us into the second with an epic pool of reflection in “Concierto de Charangojazz” amid the soulful caramel of Heinz Sauer’s reed. A pied piper’s parade awaits us, buoyed by the harrumph of tuba, in “Waltzer für Sabinchen,” leading us through the streets into “Für den Vater,” which along with “Von der gewöhnlichen Traurigkeit” blasts Sauer’s progressive talents into the stratosphere. Between a smattering of shorter pieces, the swinging celesta and dimly lit trumpet of “Kauf dir einen bunten Luftballon” and dramaturgical edge of “Manipulation” provide plenty to masticate before desert comes in the powered sugar of “Käuze und Käuzchen” and closes out this banquet with a bang and a nod in “Nachwort.”

Atmospheric Conditions Permitting is a solid take on this most influential collective, whose shifting vignettes and configurations do nothing to hide the fascinations behind them. Eclectic, professional, and not a trace of unpleasant aftertaste.

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