Marsch / Annäherungen / Spiel / Scherzo II / Rotation / de profundis / Kolaps II. 63:19.
Gratkowski, as, cl, b cl, contra b cl; Wolter Wierbos, tbn; Dieter Manderscheid, b; Gerry Hemingway d. May 4, 2000, Köln, Germany.

No longer is the piano-less quartet an oddity, and neither is the simple instrumentation of sax/clarinet, trombone, bass and drums. Gratkowski and colleagues are veterans of the free improvisation scene, their individual contributions and reputations are well established. That said, Kollaps is one of the finest group recordings of the genre, due both to the detailed writing skills of Gratkowski and to the outstanding performances from each member of the quartet. Through the years, the small Red Toucan label has issued several recordings that blend the free Jazz aesthetic with rollicking tunefulness, and this release does the same. Influences as diverse as George Russell, Carla Bley and William Breuker abound, though none is immediately apparent. The welcome emphasis on abstract melody and elaborate arrangements is resoundingly successful due to Gratkowski's considerable skills. He knows how and when to let his soloists loose with strong backing from the rest of the band, without devolving to variations on a blowing session. On "Annäherungen", to cite a random example, Gratkowski's alto romps exuberantly, stretching across boundaries, after which Wierbos runs up and down his slide with remarkable agility, showing why he is considered such an extraordinary stylist. Hemmingway is at his best, too, with a compact, focused effort, sporting nothing short of near-perfect technique, uniquely suited to the group sound. Hemingway's solo develops concisely, so that the listener's interest never wanes. Gratkowski returns to one of his bass clarinets with a more subdued though no less fascinating take, while Dieter Manderscheid adds critical support. The latter is much in demand as a bassist, and it is easy to see why, as his tasteful, elastic playing is always perfectly in on text. The real engine of this session, though, is Gratkowski, whose wicked, humor-filled writing not only sets the stage, but also makes this one of the most interesting and successful free improvisational releases this year.

Steven Loewny,

Cadence Magazine, January 2002