Gebhard Ullmann is one the most accomplished reed players on the scene today. Having made over twenty recordings, Ulmman continues to push his own envelope, along the way gaining more fans and admirers.
Michael Jefry Stevens is a breath of fresh air on the piano. Thoughful, provocative, and open to ideas, his presence in the group is unmistakable.
Following in the tradition of Dave Holland and Charlie Haden, it is hard to find a more focused master of his instrument than Joe Fonda. His ability to transform the bass into an instrument of feeling, and resilience is evidenced throughout.
Drumming in this kind of setting requires not only an excellent time keeper but also a skin tapper with imagination. Matt Wilson more than meets this requirement.
The quartet plays in the moment, totally in synch with one another, resulting in a recording full of surprises.
A blistering number entitled Dreierlei opens this session. With a quick inspired staccato opening featuring the band in unison. A brief lull gives way to a ferocious as well as a driven delivery from Ullmann. He weaves in and out of the melody with ease and conviction. After a driving attack, Fonda settles into a great bass solo, driving Wilson to offbeat rhythms and overall fun.
Stevens' march like piano, sets the pace for Final Answer. Always aware of his surroundings, Stevens remains in control throughout. Fonda has always worked well with Stevens, anticipating his every move. Wilson joins in with his own take on things. Ullmann's mastery of the bass clarinet is evidenced throughout. Shades of Dolphy? Great example of unison playing from the group.
Gone Too Soon, written by Fonda, is a moving tribute to Thomas Chapin who tragically passed away a few years ago. Chapin was an up and coming sax and flute player who held great potential. Ullmann's playing sounds like every note has a tear. An exemplary practitioner of the ballad, Ullmann pours his heart out. Sensitive accompaniment from Steven's as well as a haunting vocal recanting "Gone Too Soon".
A lovely arrangement from Stevens, Liquid Cage is dedicated to clarinetist, Mark Whitecage. Ullmann's rich and flowing sound from his bass clarinet adds a striking dimension. Wilson's cymbal work creates a framework for the expressiveness of the soul. Moving gently throughout, Steven's sparse finger work brings this piece home.
Conference Call is one of the most important ensembles on the scene today. Fun, ideas, and free flowing music are the trademarks of this successful unit. Final Answer is just one more example of what this group brings to the table.
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