frank gratkowski (reeds)
georg graewe (piano)
paul lovens (percussion)

miniscus rec. (MNSCS 007)

1. showers
2. green fuse
3. crooked rose
4. second coming

all compositions by Gratkowski / Graewe / Lovens
Recorded live at Stadtgarten, Cologne/Germany on Jan. 18th 1999


A spate of new improvisational records tests the boundaries of freedom

Look, if one more helpful corporate-trainer type twitters, “It’s not the product, it’s the process” in my immediate vicinity, I swear I’ll purge his Pentium-propelled laptop of every last damn PowerPoint presentation on How to Submerge Yourself in the Hive-Mind (um, I mean, How to Be a Team Player) and stomp on his foot besides. Granted, when I’m on my deathbed, my innate proclivity to obsess over results will flood me with regret for roses unsmelled and bubble baths untaken. But part of my aversion to the life-is-a-journey model of existence is that most of the people uttering those platitudes seem to be traveling first class. Me, I’m huddled off in steerage. And yet, I’m often taken (and taken in) by the obsession with process that’s practiced by musical improvisers, as frustrating as the results might be. I’m not saying that my rock-bred sense of instant gratification doesn’t respond thirstily to any hint of a melody or motif. But taking your eyes off the prize for a spell and submerging yourself in music-making that not only doesn’t look for an instant payoff, but whose ultimate motives remain obscure to the listener (hell, maybe even to its players) has its own rewards. Sometimes those rewards are more immediate than you’d think.

Take Quicksand (Meniscus), for instance, the recording from Frank Gratkowski, Georg Graewe, and Paul Lovens, which manages a surprising amount of cohesion despite its abstraction. Gratkowski’s fluid, round tone on reeds keeps the more theoretical explorations listenable. Humorous, too–there’s a gleeful run that I’m convinced is a distillation of a belly laugh. Pianist Graewe tosses clusters of notes at his fellows, and veteran percussionist/singing-saw maestro Lovens anchors the proceedings with his painterly style. And the three of them (sorry, but there’s no other way to put this) flat-out cook on the end of “Second Coming.”

Cecile Cloutier
Citypages Minneapolis / St.Paul

Once in a while a record goes back to free improvisation fundamentals: musicianship, experience, synergy, and most of all proportions, dosage.

Quicksand, a jazz-based improv trio date, has it all. You can’t ask for more musicianship and experience than that: these are three seasoned improvisers who have worked in many different contexts.

Although saxophonist/clarinetist Frank Gratkowski is billed as the leader, all three musicians get equal treatment. Ideas fuse from each mind.

At one point on “Second Coming,” Gratkowski initiates a ghost of a melody pianist Georg Graewe immediately picks up and develops in his own language: That’s synergy.

The participants evolve like three facets of one mind. But what makes Quicksand a beautiful listening experience is the fact that it has been produced with the listener in mind. At 44 minutes, this CD is just long enough.

All the material presented is relevant and the listener gets out of it without the feeling of exhaustion often associated with 75-minute “blow ’em all away” discs.

There is a nice tension between energy and introspectiveness (this is not the same as tension-and-release!), triggered by drummer Paul Lovens’ shifts between drums, cymbals, and singing saw.
Simply put: Free improv hardly gets more enjoyable than that. –

Francois Couture
All Music Giude

Review in “One Final Note” by Scott Hreha

Review in “Allabout Jazz” by Derek Taylor

Review in “Splendid E-zine” by Irving Bellemead

Review in “Aural-Innovations” by Jerry Kranitz

Review in “Jazz Weekly” by Ken Waxman