Frank Gratkowski Trio “Gestalten”

frank gratkowski (altosax, bassclarinet)
dieter manderscheid (bass)
gerry hemingway (drums, percussion)

JazzHausMusik (JHM83 CD)

1. gesti
2. blazing


3. gloaming
4. con affetto
5. dancing derwish
6. stag rustler
7. ernestine (dedicated to Earl Howard)
8. duck hunt
9. movements (dedicated to Jochen Bohnes)

1, 4, 7, and 9 composed by Frank Gratkowski. 6 composed by Gerry Hemingway. All others by Gratkowski/ Hemingway/ Manderscheid.
Recorded by Ansgar Ballhorn at “Loft” in Cologne, Sept. 22nd and 23rd 1995

review in “the improviser”

liner notes

Hmmm, a saxophone-trio. Ask me about a saxophone-trio in this formation (woodwinds, bass, drums or rather percussion) and my first response would be Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, and Anthony Braxton. Not a bad choice. Only the trios of the three saxophone-giants tend to lead us down the wrong tracks, and for the purposes of Frank Gratkowski’s current project, they do not serve as stone models upon which he builds his work.
Rather, the »Gestalten« [Shaping(s)] casts it’s own shadow.

Who, however, still requires a kind of reference point can perhaps take the Braxton Trio as the one seeming to have the strongest influence on the three players. Gratkowski,Manderscheid and Hemingway actually develop their improvisations with notated fragments or graphically drawn structures and in doing so occupy in a sense a Post-Braxton-Position.

However, they are also just as indebted to the »constructionist-expressionism« or »expressionist-constructionalism« (as Heinz-Klaus Metzger so put it) of Schoenberg as to the explosiveness and radical authenticity of Ayler.

The decisive step forward Gratkowski, Manderscheid and Hemingway have taken, becomes clear, when one describes what one fails to hear in relation to the three previously mentioned bands. Here one hears above all else a trio. Three players, who with the aid of thematic, melodic, or rhythmic building blocks are more inclined to find rather than seek, and despite the fact that they are playing for the first time together, sound as if they’d known each other for years. This has a lot to do with Dieter Manderscheid, a bassplayer of the second order, who doesn’t simply play the usual time as we know ist, but also with the possibilities of »chronometric« and »experience«-time. In other words, Manderscheid plays no rhythm, but rather composes and opens occurances in the time dependent or independent from the actual time: just how it happens to fit, but making sure that it fits exactly. Hemingway, the player of moods, is then the perfect companion. He is more than an exceptional melodic player, he is virtually an impressionistic drummer. Gratkowski controls all of the extended saxophone- and clarinet-techniques: overblowing, quarter-tones, fluttertounging, whatever you need to be funky.

With it he displays (like Hemingway and Manderscheid) an extraordinary structural intuition. He plays for a music that can only come into existence when several musicians play for it.

»Gestalten« is therefore more indebted to Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus or Gil Evans than the so called free-improvised music.

The CD has a conceptual denseness and variety and still seems to have floated in on the wind with it’s structual spontaneity, of which single elements always have meaning in the classical jazz sense. The trio plays ballads »movements« and »ernestine« that make the day forgotten and rippers »duck hunt« and »dancing derwish« that don’t let the night end. The Trio is then a part of the new jazz school, who deflne this music as a playing-attitude rather than simply repertoire music.

That’s real pleasure without remorse, with brain-schmaltz and sexy-sounds, the squaring of the circle and headmusic for the stomach.

Lange Kurzweil. Fucking groovy.

Markus Müller (translation: Hayden Chisholm)