Magog: s/t (JAPO 60011)



Hans Kennel trumpet, fluegelhorn, perussion
Andy Scherrer soprano and tenor saxophones, flute, percussion
Paul Haag trombone, percussion
Klaus Koenig piano, e-piano, percussion
Peter Frei bass
Peter Schmidlin drums, percussion
Recorded November 1 and 2, 1974 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineers: Martin Wieland and Carlos Albrecht
Produced by Solitron Productions, S.A.

Magog was the brainchild of trumpeter Hans Kennel, who made a name for himself in the 1960s as a hard-bop king of the Swiss jazz scene. After earning his chops with the likes of fellow countryman Bruno Spoerri and American bassist Oscar Pettiford, he continued to work with other brilliant outliers, including Mal Waldron, George Gruntz, and Pierre Favre. The band documented here arose in the mid-seventies and was something of a stepping-stone as he grew into his own as a purveyor of “New Alpine Music” (including an alphorn quartet outfit called Mytha), combining now the traditional music of his ancestors with modern jazz idioms.

As it stands, this self-titled album from the short-lived Magog is a worthy JAPO outing. There is plenty to admire in the sounds forged by Kennel and his cohorts. Reedman Andy Scherrer, trombonist Paul Haag, pianist Klaus Koenig, bassist Peter Frei, and drummer Peter Schmidlin round out a sometimes-formidable sextet in this program of as many cuts. Haag pens opener “Lock.” It’s the album’s weakest, building a loose groove from base (read: bass) elements to Kennel’s breezy adlibbing. Despite the pleasant jam aesthetic, it feels like a studio warm-up in comparison to the sprawling entity that is Scherrer’s “Gogam.” This bubbling spring promises stronger themes and realizes them with a tuck and a roll into swinging traction. The big-band-on-a-shoestring sound achieved here is remarkable, as is the steamy action between the composer and the rhythm section.

Koenig counters with two. Haag’s trombone is a prominent voice in “Rhoades,” threading the piano’s claustrophobic maze of needles with ease. This and Kennel’s visceral squeals, not to mention the sleepwalking bass solo, make for some inspiring journeying toward the final pop. “Der Bachstelzer” finds Koenig plugged in, providing somber introductory remarks to the smoothly paced excursion that ensues. More inspired, erratic brushwork from Kennel (whose musicianship stands a head above the others) and lithe sopranism from Scherrer lay a rough yet fluid track. The group really hits its stride, however, in the closing tunes from Kennel. Between the hauntingly atmospheric beginnings of “Summervogel,” replete with ancestral ululations, and the solid groove of “New Samba,” there is much to warrant return fare.

Magog doesn’t seem to have been afraid to test the waters on tape. Their honesty is apparent throughout and makes for a transparent listening experience. The group flicks through dreams like a Rolodex, working fingers to the bone in search of closure. Although said closure never quite materializes, it leaves us free to interpret the sounds however we choose.

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