Urs Leimgruber soprano and tenor saxophones, percussion
Christy Doran guitar
Bobby Buri bass
Fredy Studer drums, percussion
Recorded October 1 and 2, 1975, at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer: Martin Wieland
Produced by OM
Like its contemporary, the Everyman Band, the Lucerne-based quartet known as OM succeeded in blending rock and free improv idioms to gnarled perfection. Composed of guitarist Christy Doran (Dublin-born but Swiss-raised) and fellow countrymen Urs Leimgruber (reeds), Bobby Burri (bass), and Fredy Studer (drums), the group was an espresso shot in all four careers. ECM has, of course, given just dues with a 2006 retrospective. Still, there’s no better place to get acquainted with OM than through the four complete albums for sister label JAPO, of which this is the first (the fourth, Cerberus, survives fully intact on said retrospective).
Doran is the compositional heart and soul of the set. The only track not penned by him is “Lips” (Leimgruber/Burri), which stands out for its inspired flute playing. Leimgruber sings into the instrument for a bit of polyphonic panache against a gorgeously primal backing, Doran providing industrial touches throughout. Yet it is “Holly” which introduces the album’s distinctly nocturnal sound. Leimgruber’s talents abound here, casting him in the melodic lead from the start. Smoky atmospheres are blown into rings at his lips through a pure, oboe-like soprano. His gorgeous, full highs, complemented by Doran’s crunch, make for an enervating sound and bring their smoothness to the burnished field that is “Sykia.” The buoyant drumming makes this an enchanting epilogue. The color wheel of “Karpfenteich” begins with reedless trio action before launching us horizonward in a lob of flame. More propulsive action from the rhythm section here backs some artful crosstalk between reed and guitar. Yet it is the “Hommage à Mme. Stirnmaa” that takes this cake and bakes another one in its place. From the lovely solo by Duran that starts, it builds to a slightly burnt frenzy, out of which arises a bass of flesh and wires. The tenor solo is like a coda, rough and unleashed, and opens into a percussion solo from Studer, this but the carpet for a grand underwater raga. A masterstroke, and proof enough to seek out OM’s dates in full.
There is something strangely melancholic about the river of Kirikuki. The sunshine is in its sediments.