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Pipelines by Hans Kennel and John Wolf Brennan

The trumpet and pipe organ duo of Hans Kennel and John Wolf Brennan instantly create a rich sound on Pipelines. "Numinous" opens the disc and features the bold, exquisite, and soothing trumpet of Kennel. Brennans's organ rumbles beneath it at first before trading places with Kennel and taking center stage. The music has a classical feel to it that is undeniable but there is also a modern edge. The music reverberates loudly both on the recording and will do the same in the ears of listeners. As pleasant as can be, this is the music that I want to wake up to! (My excited tone in the last few sentences accurately reflects the beauty of this music but might read as inappropriately sharp given the peaceful nature of the sounds.)

"Numinous" lasts no more than four minutes and 41 seconds which in theory is a bad thing but the music seems to take much more time than that if only because the output is so rich. Furthermore it appears as if Kennel and Brennan work the tune, a composition by Kennel, for all that it is worth and that any more would be overdoing it. Fortunately the rest of the disc works nearly as well.

Brennan plays the pipe organ in a dour manner for most of Pipelines. He sounds frightening and horrific on "Klastr," one of the four cuts that are organ solos. Besides that cut, this is most evident on "Hepato" where the organ contrasts noticeably with the more upbeat sounds emanating from Kennel. In contrast, on "T.N.T./12th Night Tango," one of four cuts where tuba player Marc Unternahrer joins Kennel and Brennan, the entire is joyous and about as celebratory of a noise as you ever expect to be coming from a trumpet, a pip organ, and a tuba. The emotional latitude appearing here is impressive as is the extent of stylistic longitude. The echoes of both Miles Davis and Sebastian Bach appear here, with Bach's hand being a bit more discernible, as do the ghosts of the vast and varied European folk music traditions.

Listeners would not be out of line to expect such from Kennel and Brennan, both of whom have impressive musical backgrounds. The Swiss born Kennel has been a force in the world of European jazz since the 1960s and has worked with the likes of Carla Bley, Steve Lacy and Mal Waldron. Brennan, grew up in Switzerland but was actually born in Ireland where he no doubt immersed himself in that country's rich pipe organ tradition. He has studied with a number of the world masters on his chosen instrument but is probably best known to jazz fans for releases, like this one, that have appeared on Leo Records, the outstanding British label of the avant-garde. The backgrounds of the two players give what many listeners will astutely say is a European sound to Pipelines. I, however, was reminded of the music that I heard on Sundays in Lutheran churches in the midwestern section of the United States while growing up. The music has the same heaviness to it as well as the touches of joy that animated hymns. All in all, this is a most outstanding recording.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Hans Kennel and John Wolf Brennan
  • CD Title: Pipelines
  • Genre: Free Jazz / Avante Garde
  • Year Released: 2000
  • Record Label: Leo Records
  • Musicians: Hans Kennel (trumpet, alphorn), John Wolf Brennan (pipe organ), Marc Unternahrer (tuba)
  • Rating: Five Stars
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