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CD LR 292


Hans Kennel and John Wolf Brennan 


Release date: 2000

Single CD (audio): GBP 10.00
listen CD_LR_292
A meeting of trumpet and organ - an original project first suggested to John Wolf Brennan by Hans Kennel in 1994.

The final result is the music that speaks of both the depths of time and some spontaneous inspiration; it reaches back to the modes of mediaeval music and the trumpet/organ works of the baroque, yet it retains the most contemporary features due to the improvisational technique of both performers.

Music with a sense of the sacred.

The total time is 68'33

Liner Notes

( Collapse liner notes )

Pipeliners: To Kiss It Up to God

Hans Kennel first suggested this trumpet/organ project to John Wolf Brennan
in 1994.  While that might seem like a long gestation period, the music that
has  finally issued from this unusual duo speaks of both the depths of time
and some  spontaneous inspiration.  It reaches back to the modes of medieval
music and the  trumpet/organ works of the baroque, to Kennel's experiences
as a youth playing  with an organist in church and to Brennan's own
classical organ studies.  In the  spring of 1999, when they had already
begun these recordings, they were performing a tango program nightly with
singer Alexandra Prusa in Zurich.  There they  found the gifted young
tubaist Marc Unternährer, heard on four pieces here, and  also brought along
some tango repertoire to this project.  This is not simply  music recorded
in a church, a condition demanded of almost any music to be  played on a
pipe organ (though Sergey Kuryokhin did record one covertly in the Kirov
Theatre); it's music with a sense of the sacred in the musical act, and a
sense of the sacred in the local.  The organ used for these recordings, a
"Graf"  built in 1969, is in Brennan's parish church in Weggis, Lake

The organ has been called the "queen of instruments", but it's as much
architecture, spatial construct, the sound system in God's house; it's the
immovable object that moves the most vibrating air. Capable of genuine
delicacy as well as foundation-shaking bass, with its myriad stops, great
sustain and oceanic swells, the organ is also an acoustic synthesizer,
imitating the orchestra as no other keyboard might. There's recently been a
revival of interest in the Hammond B-3 and the soul jazz of the late fifties
and sixties, but the music here speaks particularly of a sacral and
closeted ­ almost conceptual ­ past, of Fats Waller and his special love of
the pipe organ and an improvising  tradition that reaches back to Bach and
beyond.  That heavenward reach is a  constant here, for the organ possesses
both a unique gravity and a special luminosity.Hans Kennel and John Wolf
Brennan are an ideal pairing, for each is as thoughtful and imaginative as
he is skillful.  Each is alive to the possibility  of music everywhere, to
the suggestion in the text and the field. There is a  small repertoire of
baroque and early classical music for trumpet and organ that is echoed in
the clear harmonies and lushly resonant sound here, but they have  also
constructed an original music, rooted equally in meditative space and
improvisational fluency.

Hans Kennel is simply a superbly lyrical trumpeter who, like Kenny Wheeler,
has  followed the dual paths of Miles Davis and an innate classicism to a
profound  originality.  He was a member of the Italian State Radio RAI jazz
combo under  the direction of pianist Mal Waldron in the sixties and the
musicians with whom  he has performed include Steve Lacy, Carla Bley, Kenny
Clarke, Dollar Brand, Gunther Schuller, Oscar Pettiford, and Albert
Mangelsdorff.  His knowledge of  the folk music of his native Switzerland is
both broad and deep.  He has a special interest in the alphorn and büchel,
as heard in his alphorn quartet,  Mytha, while his special interest in the
brass quintet can be heard in the Habarigani Brass. There is undoubtedly a
relationship between Kennel's interest in the songs and cattle calls of his
mountainous home and his extraordinary  sense of clarity. That reverberant
air demands the clearest delineation at the  source for a message to
survive, and Kennel's unusual combination of warmth and precision has
distinguished his treatments of the music of Miles Davis and Thelonious

John Wolf Brennan was transplanted from Ireland to Switzerland as a child,
and  he has a polyglot's love of the multi-lingual pun, the clash of idioms,
that has  translated into music.  He is a most pianistic pianist, a fluent
improvisor, whether performing solo or with a number of ensembles, like Pago
Libre. He has  expanded his ample technique through the transforming and
reverberant  possibilities of prepared piano, but his background also
contains more than passing familiarity with the pipe organ's highly specific
demands. While at the Academy for School and Church Music Lucerne, he
studied organ with Monika Henking, covering organ repertoire from the
baroque masters Bach,  Buxtehude, and Krebs to the modern French composers
Olivier Messiaen and Jehan Alain.  In 1994 he released his first organ CD,
"OrganIC VoICes" (Leo Lab CD 003), with German vocalist Gabriele Hasler. He
knows what an organ can do, understands how its lines can even move with a
certain litheness.  His adroit pedal technique is frequently apparent here,
as in the quick 7/8 of "Heptao" or in the pedal solo on "Kissing Joy (as it
flies)".  He also has a  certain playfulness in his handling of this most
regal of instruments: switching  off the bellows while keeping keys
depressed to create harmonics at the end of  "Subkutan" and using gaffer
tape to hold down keys in "An Answer to Charles".   Those are techniques
that echo an innovator's piano methodologies (cf. «The Well-Prepared
Clavier», Creative Works Records CW 1032) rather than traditional organ

Hans Kennel's pieces often speak of native Swiss music.  His opening
composition, "Numinous" , announces the transcendent textures created here
while  exploring the Lydian mode in serene depth to create an almost
medieval feeling. "Chüereiheli" means cattle-call and its untempered scale
is constructed on a pattern of overtones.  Kennel originally composed it for
his alphorn quartet,  Mytha, and it's also heard in a different form played
by his «Habarigani Brass» (hatART CD 6185). The title of "Fjorden" reflects
the strong resemblance  between Kennel's  Swiss sources and  Scandinavian
music.  "Dance Five" is in a vigorous 5/4 and it connects Alpine music and
jazz textures explicitly. Kennel  plays alphorn with trombone-like
virtuosity while Brennan manages to get  something of the sound of a Leslie
speaker from the pipe organ.  The concluding  "All Mortal Flesh", a hymn
from the Picardie region of France, was first  suggested to Kennel by French
horn player Tom Varner.

Brennan's inspirations come from a variety of sources. "Scoop Loop" (for
Paul  Klee) derives something of its geometrical shape from Klee's 1938
painting  "Park bei Lu(zern)" and plays with the exchange of background and
foreground.  Several pieces reflect his interest in complex time signatures,
like the 13/8 of "Gravity" and the 7/4 of "Heptao", an interest that makes
special demands on the  usually ponderous instrument.  His brief organ solos
particularly play with the instrument's potential for tonal density, like
the thick clusters of "Klastr".Brennan's "Kissing Joy (as it flies)" is a
lyrical ballad that echoes Miles Davis's title tune for Louis Malle's
"L'ascenseur pour l'échafaud" while  making harmonic reference to Oliver
Nelson's "Blues and the Abstract Truth".   Its title alludes to an old Irish
saying, "Kiss it up to God", which for the composer is "a very optimistic
way of sending a message in the bottle up to the skies".  The brief
collective creation "Häb CH läb" has the alphorn's long, drone-like tones
closely matching the organ's bass pedal trombone sounds.  The  title is a
compound pun in Swiss German.  It literally means  "hold it, stick (or glue)
it", but in a figurative sense "makeshift".  It's a title, though,  that
comes apart: "läb" means "live", and CH is the official abbreviation of
"Confederatio Helveticorum",  the Swiss Confederation of the Helvetians (an
ancient Celtic tribe), a CH that appears on a bumper sticker on every Swiss
car.  So the title may be read as "Hold it, Switzerland, (and just) live" or
as a vision of a state that is falling apart, only tenously held together
with paste.  Those sustained bass notes may allude to stronger foundations.

Each of the pieces has its own charm and points of interest, but there are
things that make the cumulative impact of «pipelines» larger.  If Kennel's
inspirations are rural and folkloric and Brennan's urban and as apt to come
from  painting and literature, they share a mutual lyricism and high empathy
as  improvisors.  It's evident in the rich sonic frames that Brennan crafts
for the  trumpeter's work and in the warm burnish that Kennel adds to the
melodies of  "Kissing Joy (as it flies)" and "Locrian Locution".   Brennan's
"T.N.T/ 12th Night Tango" is clearly a favorite of the composer, who
describes it as Orsino's  "love sick blues" and has previously recorded it
with Gabriele Hasler (its lyric  is the monologue "...if music be the food
of love...") and also with the  Creative Works Orchestra and singer Corin
Curschellas in a version that is pure Kurt Weill.  There is a new dimension
added to it here, as Kennel's trumpet and Unternährer's tuba have somehow
moved it to the sphere of Nino Rota and the  wonderful circus-like music he
composed for Fellini films. That closeness also shows in the improvisations
of such disparate  inspirations as "An Answer to Charles" and "All Mortal
Flesh".The sequencing of the 18 distinct pieces, too, contributes to the
effect. The  program is cyclical, with forms and moods reemerging and
overlapping, like the  organ's own palpable waves of sound.  It begins with
a quietly meditative piece and this mood returns with tracks 5, 10 and 15.
The fast pieces come in threes, at 3, 6, 9, 12, and then there is a hiatus
until 17.  The trios with tuba are interspersed at 6, 9, 10, 17, while at
the centre there is a cluster of  "classically" inspired pieces paying
homage to Erik Satie, Charles Ives, and Steve Reich. Explicitly folk-derived
pieces appear at tracks 2, 9 and 14, while the organ solos appear in a
series of 4s.

To these one can add that the trios are often dance-oriented, and more
assertively rhythmic.  The somber minimalism of  "Another Different Train",
dedicated to Steve Reich and inspired by his string quartet on the
holocaust, may reverberate with the phase music aspects of "Dance Five" and
its suggestions of Terry Riley.  Satie's moody tango, midway in the program,
is balanced by the humour of Brennan's "T.N.T." near the conclusion.  The
old church modes are explicit in the Lydian mode of "Numinous" and "Locrian
Locution", and keeping with the jazz orientation, they're both "flat five"
modes.  The concluding hymn seems to recirculate the listener back to the
divine invocation of the beginning.

In its own special way, this is music of reverence and wit, not
irreconcilable but complemetary qualities.  If we increasingly value music
for its ability to create compelling and original space that somehow
resonates with our own needs, then Kennel and Brennan have
succeeded on a very high level, crafting a music that belongs as intimately
to its immediate locale as to a gestural history of jazz.  In its resonance,
the strata of memory and spatial and temporal reference come apart, rising
upward and becoming timeless. Hence an invocation of Miles Davis or a
Picardie hymn, Lester Bowie or a cattle call from the Muotathal Valley, Bach
or Satie, occupies the same luminous space ­ no longer codified by fame or
date, but loved, both blessed and blessing. This is music with its own
rhythms, but it is also music without time.

Stuart Broomer
Toronto, March 2000
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