most beautiful surprise at the 2001 edition of the Controindicazioni
Festival in Rome was for me the Frank Gratkowski Quartet - and I have
to confess that I had never heard of them before. Sure, I'd listened
for a long time to trombone player Wolter Wierbos, a treasure of the
Instant Composers Pool Orchestra and of the Maarten Altena line-ups;
and of course I was quite familiar with drummer Gerry Hemingway - who
could forget that beautiful Anthony Braxton Quartet featuring Mark Dresser
and Marilyn Crispell? But I'm positive I had never met bass player Dieter
Manderscheid - nor the leader - before. Gratkowski appeared to me to
be an excellent saxophone and clarinet player and composer who had listened
quite deeply to Braxton and Steve Lacy. On that night the quartet had
played with assurance, combining written scores and improvisation with
a mature attention to timbre (which was to be expected). They had played
quite a varied repertoire, and one piece stuck in my memory: an elementary
riff, played "tutti", which sounded like a demented permutation
of funky music - very weird indeed!
Reflections was recorded in Cologne a few days after the concert I attended,
so it shares a lot of items with that. I had the pleasure to find that
"funky" piece again - it's called Loom, and it works at home,
too. There are episodes that can be quite easily classified as "jazz"
- the brief Annäherungen III, the long Homage, whose second part
swings like mad, while in the first part Wierbos's trombone plays against
Gratkowski's clarinet and where I seemed to hear that dry lyricism that's
so typical of Steve Lacy. There are some fine braxtonian ruminations
on the bass clarinet in Spectral Reflections, while the more "abstract"
Blonk and Fenster are to be enjoyed.
four players play admirably, the CD is quite well recorded, so I can't
see any reasons not to recommend this album - we have obviously to take
for granted at this point in time the lack of anything new in this particular
Beppe Colli 2003
| Sept. 7, 2003