02. Nina's Dance 3:38
03. Newtones 3:02
04. Goblins 5:21
05. Patience 6:42
06. Fingerfarben 8:16
Recorded At – Tonstudio Zuckerfabrik
Bass – Fritz Heieck
Drums – Manfred Kniel
Guitar – Thomas Horstmann
Piano, Electric Piano – Uli Bühl
Saxophone – Erich Stangl, Walter Hüber, Wilfried Eichhorn
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Frederic Rabold
Vocals, Voice – Lauren Newton
Frederic Rabold had been into Dixieland and Swing Bands, and had let his Free instincts flow while in Gunther Hampel’s Band before he started recording with this Crew in 1975; one of the reason’s behind this project was his love for and his desire to use voices in his Music; another one might have been his admitted admiration for Gil Evans and George Russell; the third his wish to widen the scope of contemporary Jazz; this ambitious 1979 opus – the last with the Crew – consists of all the aforementioned and other unusual and surprising elements, and the 1st impression it makes on the listener may well be: “An UFO has landed!”. Curiosity intercalates with astonishment as one plunges deeper into the spaceship’s travel book, and although this listener might have occasionally wished a little more nerve or less cerebral motivations, this is often an exciting journey where many reference points sound familiar and the déjà-vu sensation is accompanied by admiration for the inspired ways the octet molds the soundscape and the sense of renewal and braving of virgin territories is a constant.
Rabold also puts his composer skills to test, as he authored four out of the six tracks including the almost epic title track which occupies more than a third of the album’s length, while US-born singer Lauren Newton and drummer Manfred Kniel wrote one each of the remaining; after some minor changes through the years the other Crew members at the time were Eric Stangl (alto/soprano saxes and clarinet), Wilfred Eichhorn (tenor sax, bass clarinet and flute), Walter Hüber (baritone sax and contrabass-clarinet), pianist Jürgen Dollmann and bass player Tomas Stabenow.
The opening title track is clearly the more easily digested by traditional Jazz fans, although the 13 minutes plus tour-de-force is all but prosaic or cliché-prone; atop the Tango rhythm Eichhorn’s tenor moves either sensually or acrobatically until the piano starts banging and accentuating counter tempos and the rest of the crew enters with Big Band bombast and appetite for some blaring or cacophonic options; the fractured tempo than gives place to some epic feeling ensemble blasts which alternate with the leader’s solos – starting with lyrical flugelhorn and ending with incisive trumpet statements - as the underlying and beautiful harmonic sequences alternate between descending and zigzagging , before an inspired upright bass part, laden with tasty glissandos and brisk fast runs, brings back the tango.
All four mid-tracks include Newton’s groundbreaking vocal style, her arsenal of vocalizations made up of idiosyncratic scatting, whispers, screams, noises, loosen syllables you name it – which occasionally remind me of Flora Purim but much more intensely reveal themselves as a very likely major source of inspiration for Maria Joâo extraordinaire style: the intriguing and creepy “Nina’s Voice” as her surreal voice hovers above and initiates a dialogue with Stangl’s muscled alto; Newton’s own “Newtones”, melancholic and eerie, where the dialoguing partner is Rabold’s flugelhorn and where the tasty and alert work of the rhythm section stands out once more;
I detect some Magma-like vestiges on the tempoless “Goblins” as the flute, contrabass and standard clarinets blow like a breeze on the tree leaves and Newton speaks a vocabulary which might well have been that of the little forest creatures pinpointed by Kniel’s sweeping use of his drum-kit, whereas on “Patience” the bass clarinets weave a calm yet disturbing intro before the ensemble’s broad palette of colours, voice included, submerges all in kaleidoscopic waves and Dollmann becomes the major protagonist as his piano goes from romantically classical to exuberantly McCoy Tyner-ish and back.
Clocking at over 8 minutes, Kniel’s “Fingerfarben” is the album’s other tour-de-force, a multi-parted, time-signature changing piece which flirts with floating contemporary Classical, and impressionistic horn paintings, takes the shape of an alto lead Jazz ballad, morphs into a march with Zappa-like reminiscences, before the trumpet fierily, fiercely and goofily blasts and blares upon a fractured, limping, hard-hitting anti-groove and everybody finally converges into a calm and brief finale.