Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Free Jazz Group Wiesbaden - 1969 - Frictions

Free Jazz Group Wiesbaden 

01. Intro Four For Four
02. Topology
03. Töne III
04. Sounds For M
05. Töne I
06. Ballad Allintervallreihe
07. Peaceless

Alto Saxophone, Oboe, Piano, Flute [Shepherd Flute], Bells – Dieter Scherf
Drums – Wolfgang Schlick
Guitar, Flute – Gerhard König
Trumpet – Michael Sell

The LP was recorded live on 12th July, 1969 in a first pressing of 300 copies.
Recording location: Walldorf Studio, Walldorf, Germany.

Unlike Braxton and Bailey, the Free Jazz Group Wiesbaden will likely be unfamiliar to most. They were active only from 1969-1972, and then mostly within Germany. They are an absolutely fabulous discovery.

The group featured two composers in trumpeter Michael Sell and multi-instrumentalist Dieter Scherf, alongside a strikingly original electric guitarist, Gerhard König, and a drummer, Wolfgang Schlick, whose style sounds distinctly contemporary today. Their togetherness on these dates is remarkable – there’s not an unfocused or unconcentrated moment on either of the two albums compiled here.

Their first release, Frictions, was recorded at Walldorf Studio on 12 July 1969, in sessions that yielded a single continuous piece lasting 37:32, which comprises seven interlinked sections with thematic composition credited individually to Scherf and Sell: “Intro For Four” (Scherf), “Topology” (Sell), “Töne” (Sell), “Sounds For M” (Scherf), “Töne I” (Sell), “Ballad-Allintervallreihe” (Scherf), “Peaceless” (Scherf).

“Frictions” opens with Scherf on piano, König on flute, and Schlick vigorous on toms, and this is the most dated passage of play on the album, evocative of any number early 70s multi-kulti enterprises. But there’s an effortless transition to full kit drumming behind twinned sax and trumpet, and the quartet are soon playing with focused intensity, Scherf’s sax ever on the cusp of plaintive anguish and hymnal ecstasy. Sell’s trumpet is Scherf’s more penetrating counterpart: both tonally and expressively they combine supremely well.

Transitions between the composed sections are distinct, sometimes abrupt, but smoothly negotiated. The quartet course through thematic material that offers plenty of variation—notably an exposed sax solo after 15 minutes—using it up and moving on in seemingly impulsive momentum.

In this bass-less context the ever-resourceful König’s guitar plays both rhythmic and counter-textural roles. Working in a small town at the birth of the free jazz movement, both König and Schlick had previously played in rock and soul groups, and the drummer, in particular, brings unashamed emphatics to bear. One of the more beautiful passages has wiry guitar chords chopped out over insistent polyrhythms, all sprinkled with glisters of inner piano.

Just occasionally, Scherf, in particular, sounds like Peter Brötzmann, whose milestone recording Machine Gun dates from only one year earlier. But in its free-ranging semi-structure FJGW’s music also evidences awareness of the 1950s innovations of Cecil Taylor and Ornette Coleman (Coleman and Don Cherry’s double voicing, in particular, is echoed in the Scherf/Sell sound), and touches on aspects of the music developed much later by jazz-rock outfits such as Nucleus to Last Exit.

What makes FJGW so great are the different and various musical means they have at hand: classic bebop riffs, world music influences, free collective improvisations, Kraut rock elements, 1960s psychedelia, etc. However, at the heart of their music is classic African-American free jazz. But although the two albums share the same impetus and approach, there is also an important difference: “Frictions“ is partly notated and presented as an uninterrupted piece although it actually consists of seven Sell/Scherf compositions: “Intro For Four“ is a trio of piano, flute and drums and reminds of Don Cherry’s double flute excursions; “Topology“ refers to the themes used by Albert Ayler’s groups just to drift off in a collective improvisation; “Töne“ is a duel between the reeds and the guitar and makes the impression of a modern jazz theme; “Sounds For M“ sounds like a Miles Davis riff, “Töne I“ is another short modern jazz interlude; “Ballad - Allintervallreihe“ is a theme played  unison before “Peaceless“, a marvelous reed drone, brings the track to an end. All this preconceived material serves to structure the improvisations, which are dominated by free, very energetic and atonal reed lines, fragmented and twitchy guitar chords and polyrhythmic whirlwinds. The whole conception can be described as a mixture of explicitly planned formal processes and a careful arrangement of sound layers on the one hand and spontaneous interactions and raw rhythmic eruptions on the other hand. The music unfolds in frequent variations of timbral textures.

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