Frank Gratkowski / Sebi Tramontana “Live at Španski Borci”

Frank Gratkowski (bass clarinet, Bb clarinet, alto saxophone)
Sebi Tramontana (trombone)


Leo Records (LR 779)

1 Revelation 05:03
2 Spirited 04:01
3 Time and Space 03:04
4 Dancer 04:48
5 Singer 03:16
6 You’re tough 04:51
7 Series of dramatic events 05:19
8 Daydream 06:36
9 Deceiver 02:10
10 Nocturne 04:10
11 Enthusiasm 02:13
12 Empathy 05:28
13 Despedida 02:25
14 Homage 05:26
15 Alacrity 02:34

Total duration 62:09

All Compositions by Frank Gratkowski and Sebi Tramontana GEMA.
Recorded live at Španski Borci Theatre, Ljubljana, Slovenia on Feburary 16th 2016 (1-9) and November 6th 2015 (10-15).
Recorded by Iztok Klopotec with a Soundfield MKV(4 capsules) stereo microphone. 
Mastered by Wolfgang Stach, Maarwegstudio 2, Köln.
Cover Artwork by Sebi Tramontana, design by Manuel Heyer.
Photo by Albert Kösbauer.
Produced by Frank Gratkowski and Sebi Tramontana. 

Special thanks to Iztok Klopotec, Tomaz Grom, Iztok Kovac, Manuel Heyer and Wolfgang Stach

Liner notes by Steve Beresford:

I am sometimes haunted by the memory of a video clip of Billy Eckstine on the last Nat ‘King’ Cole television show, broadcast in December1957. Eckstine and Cole sing ‘Rosetta’ and Eckstine plays the trumpet. He then plays an instrument resembling a tenor saxophone, but when we hear it, it’s clear that it’s not a saxophone. It’s some kind of brass instrument, probably a valve trombone, made to look like a saxophone. The video notes say it’s a ‘Jazzphone’. 

I’m always haunted by Flann O’Brien’s novel ‘The Third Policeman’, in which the principle of what Sergeant Pluck calls The Atomic Theory has an important role: “…people who spend most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles over the rocky roadsteads of this parish get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle…”.

Could the Jazzphone be a result of some Atomic Theory personality mix-up of a saxophone and a trombone? And what about the almost-as-rare slide saxophone – a soprano with a slide enabling long glissandi (often played by Lol Coxhill with the help of a bucket of water)? Is it in the midst of its transition to becoming a trombone? Say, seventy per cent saxophone, thirty per cent trombone?

(Are these ‘Pataphysical musings? Yes, but I find them instructive).

Here – I mean on this CD – we have recordings of pieces by a duet of trombone and various reed instruments. The instruments, whilst not adopting each others’ physical characteristics, have clearly, with the invaluable help of their respective players, borrowed much musical stuff from each other.

Personalities are routinely mixed up, like O’Brien’s bicycles and their riders. Strategies are generated spontaneously.
Structures are created, sometimes carefully, sometimes in a rough and tumble way.
Techniques are adopted and developed until they become a natural part of the player’s repertoire. 
New things are very often discovered: sounds, techniques, ways of relating.

Despite free improvisers stubbornly ignoring the recent demands from a couple of journalists (let’s call them Statler and Waldorf) that:

a.     In the middle of each piece, they should periodically stop playing so they can hear what the other people are playing,


b.     They should not play with anyone else because the other person might play something that makes them think of a pre-existing piece of music,

the standard of free improvising all over the place has continued to rise. This is true, even though it consists of people playing without gaps and even playing with other people. Shocking.

Sensitive listeners will be pleased to know that despite the time Sebi and Frank undoubtedly spend with their respective instruments, they are not slowly turning into them. Unlike some players (i.e. me) Sebi and Frank are well-rounded personalities, just as likely to be influenced by some architecture or a piece of cheese as they are likely to be influenced by other musicians. 

I will throw Statler and Waldorf a bone here and at least mention the great tradition of trombone/reed duos, especially embodied in those involving Roswell Rudd, whose laconic trombonist statements enliven his interplay with Archie Shepp, Steve Lacy, John Tchicai. Hear echoes here.

If you are someone just starting to discover this music, this recording provides myriad examples of ways of how things can be put together. Just make a list and try them out! See how areas are investigated for a while in one piece. In the next piece there might be lots of areas covered in a short time. Instruments might not seem to be acknowledging each other and then it will become clear that they have a deeper connection. Things are not rejected just because they are serious. Or funny. 

Or don’t do any such thing. Sit there and listen. Statler and Waldorf may find it hard to admit that free improvisation is fun. But we know different.