Loft Exil 3 “Live in Moers ’98”

frank gratkowski (alto saxophone, clarinet, bass clarinet)
matthias schubert (tenor saxophone)
ernst reijseger (cello)
dieter manderscheid (bass)
achim krämer (drums)

2ndFloorEdition (CD 006)

1. am boden
2. pferdsprung
3. epitasis

all compositions by the musicians except “Epitasis” by Gratkowski (Gema)
recorded live at “Moers Festival” Germany 30.5.+1.6.1998

liner notes

Loft Exil III
Gratkowski / Schubert / Manderscheid / Krämer + Reijseger

Having parked the car we proceeded to make our way through the thousands of camping hippies who, after yet another night of non-stop bongo playing, were still showing no sign of letting up. The park was bursting with happy campers – this was the 1998 Moers New Jazz Festival. Finally, in the corner of this vast space, we arrived at our destination – the gymnasium of a local high-school. We began to circle the area but where was the entrance? Do you hear anything? They must’ve finished! Already?!

We managed however to find the cue lining up outside and soon found ourselves in the school courtyard – on the left in the school hall the ecstatic Japanese of the Shibusashuazu Orchestra were in full flight, and on the right – what’s that we hear? Free Jazz! Aha.

In 1998, Hans-Martin Müller took advantage of a third opportunity to present to the Moers Festival within four morning sessions some samples of the scene connected to his “Loft” in Cologne – a decentralized, diverse group of musicians, moving easily between free improvisation “enlightened” jazz, and new music, who have come together over the 10 year history of the “Loft”.

The hard core of Müllers 1998 “Loft Exil Project” consisted of readman Frank Gratkowski and Matthias Schubert, bassist Dieter Manderscheid, and Achim Krämer on drums. Several other guests such as the cellist Ernst Reijseger extended, supplemented, and challenged the core group. Although one could easily see this group as a kind of “ad-hoc” combo thrown casually together, the musicians are by no means strangers to each other. Gratkowski an Schubert have been playing together in a duo for years, Manderscheid is an irreplaceable element of the Gratkowski trio, both Krämer and Gratkowski were active with pianist Georg Graewe, in whose legendary trio Reijseger also made appearances.

In the gymnasium itself, an overwhelming picture was unfolding. The audience, suffering either from tiredness (perhaps from hangovers) or confusion (perhaps from free-jazz!) were nevertheless doing their best to appreciate the music.
Meanwhile at the far end of the hall, a monumental struggle for form and expression was taking place – two saxophonists bending and writhing, the bassist upright and unflinching, the cellist bowing with visible joy, and the drummer wrenching form from skin and metal.

Now, a feeling of euphoria came over us. Having spent the whole morning dodging campers and standing in cues we were finally in the middle of the action – an action concerned solely with creating an egalitarian balance of voices within open improvised structures, with forming bridges between extreme dynamic poles and all those lying between, and with transferring a common vocabulary into a binding syntax without loosing the thread along the way.

What a moment – too sudden to be savored for long.

Yet with half a year having passed since first hearing the group, this event seamed all the more lasting.

At any given moment the musicians seem to know exactly what they’re doing. Although mainly improvised, the music is most definitely structured, so that the thematic material (now and then even implying swing) and the various levels of polyphony is a combined effort. Even when Gratkowski and Schubert (almost naturally) command attention, it is the flowing ideas of Krämer, the unshakeable steadiness of Manderscheid, and the humor of Reijsegers that make the high flights of the two saxophonists possible.

Passages which at first seem to lead nowhere, turn out to develop themselves further and allow the organic, pulsing character of the music to become more open. Although the material relies solely on the moment, inter references and sudden turns in direction are present throughout this “instant-composition” form that would be simply arbitrary were it not for the intention of the musicians. This demonstrates a kind of freedom in working with technical material that could easily fall under the category of “Free Jazz” (if only the term wasn’t so misused) or even, through the angular, explosive composition of Gratkowski, hinting at the restructualism of Braxton.

However at that moment: Pentecost 1998, shortly before high noon in a school gymnasium, none of that was important. Willingly, we set the musicians take us from one context to the next. Sometimes the sudden can be so strange.

Felix Klopotek, April 1999