The Philosophy of the Fluegelhorn
Herbert Joos fluegelhorn, bass, bass recorder, bamboo flute, mellophone, trumpet, alto horn, vibes
Recorded July 1973 at Tonstudio Bauer, Ludwigsburg
Engineer Carlos Albrecht
Produced by Herbert Joos
The Philosophy of the Fluegelhorn is Herbert Joos’s first of two albums for ECM’s sister label JAPO, the second being Daybreak. Where the latter was a lyrical, if longwinded, excursion, the former is something of a meta-statement for the German renaissance man—not only because he plays a bevy of overdubbed instruments, but also because its freer detailing gives pause over the sheer depth of realization.
The title track draws us into the outdoors, where field-recorded birds—and, among them, Joos’s horn—populate the trees with temporal awareness. Sibilant breath and popping bamboo flutes share the entanglement: the rhizomatic spread of Joos’s becoming-animal. Following this undulating prelude, “The Warm Body Of My True Love” opens the stage, a halved and hollowed whole. The nature of this soliloquy must be sought out in stirrings of life, excitations of molecules, and less definable physical properties. The horns are trembling, universal. “Skarabäus II” is of similarly finite constitution, navigating passage into darker dreams and adding to those horns a string’s uncalled-for response to the question of existence. Braided offshoots of trumpet fly around one another, each carrying its own flame of obsession. Next is the smooth and sultry “Rainbow.” Tinged by the alcoholic sunset of vibes, it is a hangover not yet shaken for want of the altered perspective. The squealing litter of horns that is “The Joker” segues into “An Evening With The Vampire.” Bathed in the sounds of nine arco basses, it enacts a morose ending to an otherwise luminescent session. Its sul ponticello screams recall George Crumb’s Black Angels and spin the echo-augmented horn like a chromatic Ferris wheel until the breath stops.
If you’ve ever been curious about Joos but didn’t know where to start, then by reading this you’ve already put your hand on the knob. Just turn it.
2 thoughts on “Herbert Joos: The Philosophy of the Fluegelhorn (JAPO 60004)”
Another nice review, and another disc that I sure wish I could get my hands on. ECM/Japo really still has a lot of recordings that really need to be re-released and have been out of print (and never available digitally) for far too long.
I don’t usually care for overdubbed albums, and they are not often in the spirit of ECM, especially these golden age early 70s ones. Joos though does here manage to conjure up a suitably subtle and pleasing soundscape for his Fluegelhorn virtuosity. We can still find ourselves wondering if an unaccompanied solo album would have done it anyway, such is his skill. Rest in Peace Herbert.