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CD LR 290

CD LR 290 - LEO RECORDS

Gebhard Ullmann 

Ta Lam Zehn Vancouver Concert

Release date: 2000

Single CD (audio): GBP 10.00*
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This is a special project by Gebhard Ullmann involving nine reed players and one accordianist.

The absence of a rhythm section in a ten-piece band is hardly surprising nowadays; but what is surprising, here, is Ullmann's orchestration, the rich harmonies and dense textures, and the collective energy held together by the sheer rhythmic drive and spirit of improvisation.

It's music with a vitality that strikes immediately, and with depths and perspectives that continue to unfold (Stuart Broomer)

The total duration of this breathtaking concert is 62'53

Liner Notes

( Collapse liner notes )

Ceremony to Change


Tą Lam is a special project for Gebhard Ullmann.  It began in 1990 as a
musical commemoration of his world travels, a combination of the moods and
musics that he had encountered in Africa, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand,
as well as his dual residency in Berlin and New York.  The first Tą Lam was
an intensely personal exploration of reed textures, as Ullmann built up the
pieces in the studio, overdubbing saxophones, flutes, bass clarinet and
piccolo, up to sixteen layers, with the addition of only the Swiss
accordionist Hans Hassler (99 Records 2117).  To play the music in public
necessitated the addition of a host of other musicians.  To do so, he
assembled a band of Berlin's most adventurous saxophonists and clarinetists,
resulting in Tą Lam Acht, a group consisting of seven reed players and
Hassler that recorded Moritat (99 Records 2132) in 1994.  In 1998 Ullmann
expanded the group to ten pieces, adding further gravity to the ensemble
with Hinrich Beermann's baritone saxophone and Theo Nabicht's bass clarinet
for a month-long North American tour that took Tą Lam Zehn from New York to
San Francisco and touched down at several Canadian jazz festivals.
Vancouver, perched on the Pacific, where the idea of West tips inevitably
into the East, was the site of the extraordinary concert heard here.  The
Vancouver label Songlines issued a compilation of the two German CDs as Tą
Lam (SGL 1520) to mark the event.


The keen interest in reed textures is apparent in Ullmann's other ensembles.
His quartet Basement Research, with two releases on Soul Note, pairs him
with Ellery Eskelin, and it's marked by the sonic contrasts between
Ullmann's soprano sax and bass clarinet and Eskelin's tenor.  Recently he
has explored clarinet sonorities with The Clarinet Trio: Oct.1 Œ98  (Leo Lab
CD 058), combining one regular B flat clarinet and two bass with Tą Lam
members Jürgen Kupke and Theo Nabicht.  One might point to the all-saxophone
bands of the seventies and eighties as an influence on Tą Lam ­ the World
Saxophone Quartet, ROVA, Six Winds, the Köln Saxophone Mafia, and others ­
but Ullmann has done something very different, exploring the rhythmic use of
clarinets and achieving striking orchestral breadth with the use of sections
and layered chords.  Tą Lam Zehn, after all, is a band that includes four
bass clarinetists and three flutists as well as seven saxophonists, and
Ullmann has made crucial distinctions about the brassiness of saxophones and
the woody qualities of clarinets and flutes.As striking a composer as he is
an orchestrator, Ullmann has built up harmonic and rhythmic languages from
modernist composers, jazz, and the world's musical reservoirs.  While there
are broad and brassy chords that may suggest Paul Hindemith or Carl Ruggles,
the strongest resemblance is to Olivier Messiaen, both in the use of rapid
unisons and the compounding of assymetrical scales and rhythms.  Like
Messiaen, Ullmann draws materials from different sources and fuses them into
a distinct idiom.  It's the methodology of  jazz, however, its rhythmic
drive and the spirit of improvisation, that welds Tą Lam's music.  The
energy heard here is collective, and it's tribute to the composer's vision
that he has turned so individual a project into a genuine band, highlighting
the very different instrumentalists' voices in a way that suggests Duke
Ellington or Charles Mingus.


Each piece heard here is a special event, a wedding of composition and
soloists.  "Tapping the Foot, Tapping the Brain," its title suggestive of
mind/body split and reunification, divides the reed orchestra into sections,
using the clarinets for a repeated rhythmic figure that might suggest the
music of the Central African rain forest, while the wide intervals of the
saxophone choir suggest European sources.  Following Beermann's explosive
baritone solo, the centre of the piece emphasizes that duality, with a
sustained duet by Daniel Erdmann on tenor and Ullmann on bass clarinet, the
latter making the most of his instrument's harmonic-rich lower register.
Volker Schlott's alto soars out of the almost glutinous mass that introduces
"Speak Low," while Jürgen Kupke weaves a liquid solo line in "Heaven No. 2.4
" that the other winds punctuate with different backdrops ­ first a swarming
hive of sound and later a tense melody of slow, wide intervals voiced in
looming chords.  Joachim Litty's bass clarinet on "Blue Prixx" is set
against the rhythmic pad slaps of the other reeds.  Theo Nabicht's soprano
is distinctively dry, while Klemm's warm tenor sound is a contrast to
Erdmann's intensity.
The wooden Bolivian flutes of "Oberschöneweide" simultaneously evoke
mountain air and the special blues of fifties cool jazz in a piece that
began as a portrayal of an industrial area of Berlin and then developed new
elements through a Southeast Asian tour.  "Black Cat," a theme written
through European and African sojourns and which has played its way through
Ullmann's different ensembles, is a remarkable vehicle for Heiner
Reinhardt's rivetting bass clarinet.  Then there are Kurt Weill's two most
famous melodies ­ "Speak Low" (written in America) and "Die Moritat von
Mackie Messer" ("Mack the Knife" in its popular incarnations, written in
Berlin) ­ pressed into new forms with aggressive orchestration and soloing.
The role of Hans Hassler's accordion ­ a reed instrument that also sounds
when it inhales ­ is that of other or double, one of the world's most
travelled instruments,
a portable organ that nestles comfortably in a host of idioms. Hassler does
handily what the other reeds cannot, whether adding a distorting touch of
the cabaret to the Weill tunes or becoming a cluster machine in the "theme"
portion of "Blue Prixx."


There is nothing sentimental or nostalgic, nothing idealized, in Ullmann's
travel diary.  There is the  sense of lush vegitation pressed against an
industrial landscape, the feel of real air (dry or humid), a sense of
individual voices in the suddenly shifting terrains of our experience, of
traditions crossing an unstable world and messages that open to suddenly
reveal others.  It's music with a vitality that strikes immediately and with
depths and perspectives that continue to unfold.


Stuart Broomer
March 2000
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