Theo Jörgensmann - clarinet
Christopher Dell - vibes
Christian Ramond - bass
Klaus Kugel - drums
selected cd reviews
"To Ornette - Hybrid Identity" (hatOLOGY 576)
- released in 2002
Review by Lee Prosser
- The Theo Jörgensmann Quartet from Germany is a group that will electrify the jazz listening audience with its unique contemporary jazz sound that blends bop, free jazz, and world jazz motifs together. The solos are topnotch.
- What comes across so elegantly in TO ORNETTE - HYBRID IDENTITY is the absolute love of jazz and solid performances. This quartet plays with feeling and keen sensitivity to the themes they are sharing with a jazz listening audience.
- If you are looking for a refreshingly honest combination of jazz motifs and styles, you will find this an enjoyable listening adventure. TO ORNETTE - HYBRID IDENTITY is filled with magic, sensibility, and solid performances in a contemporary jazz setting that has much imput from other genres of jazz expression. Enjoyable.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ, USA, 2002
Review by Glenn Astarita
- Clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann's discography, namely for the "hatOLOGY" record label, speaks intrinsic volumes. The title of this effort might intimate an obvious Ornette Coleman tribute, but the quartet merely skirts the fringes of Mr. Coleman's pronounced musical ideologies. In fact, none of these pieces were written by Coleman, as the Hybrid Identity implications simply signify the guiding tone of the overall production. The band incorporates Coleman's harmolodic concepts to a degree. However the musicians perpetuate a personalized game plan, awash with Jorgensmann and vibist Christopher Dell's complexly woven unison lines. The soloists employ crisscrossing themes atop the rhythm section's swarming and sometimes, circular pulses. Where Jorgensmann's radiant musings are augmented by his free-bop approach and soul-drenched sense of swing.
- On the title track "Hybrid Identity", the group renders a garrulous set of exchanges, marked by punctuating choruses and turbulent underpinnings. Here, they pursue a faint yet philanthropic kinship with Coleman's blanketed concepts as they redirect those sensibilities into a launching pad for expansion. With "Veneta", the band executes a free flowing and altogether airy sequence of grooves marked by ethereal undercurrents and dissimilar tonalities. Hence, the quartet instills additional hope for modern jazz via this superbly configured exposition. (Vigorously recommended)
ALL MUSIC GUIDE, USA, 2002
Review by Steven Loewy
- Although the relationship between Ornette Coleman and Theo Jörgensmann might at first blush seem somewhat tenuous, Peter Niklas Wilson argues convincingly in his liner notes that the spirit of Ornette is central to this music. While the album is dedicated to Ornette, none of his tunes is played and the instrumentation bears little resemblance to that used by him. Still, with the focus on melody (as a tool, not an end), the openness of time, the diversity of approaches within a single song, and the willingness to embrace unusual yet logical paths, Jörgensmann absorbs the legacy of Ornette in a way that might not at first be apparent. This is a tightly performed set of compositions in which the clarinetist's mastery of his horn leads him to flirt with the edges where Free Jazz meets Hard Bop. Jörgensmann has previously proved his virtuosic skills, and they are here in large doses, but this recording is not about jamming the changes or proving one's virility. This can be complex music, where a lightness of being intersects varied harmonies, and it can also be invigorating fare. Christopher Dell's vibes color the tonalities with a delicacy of being, though the results will never be mistaken as Jazz lite. At times, it might seem atmospheric ' but not for long. Throughout there is a seriousness to it that begs the listener to concentrate closely, as there are layers of mystery to be peeled away.
SIGNAL to NOISE, USA, 2002
Review by Jay Collins
- This session dedicated to Ornette Coleman features none of his tunes, no saxophone (or violin or trumpet) and an instrumentation radically different from any of Ornette's recorded exploits. Yet this is a highly appropriate tribute that works due to the incredible energy, the boundless creativity and strong personal statements contributed by the members of this ensemble. Jörgensmann and his quartet's influences are firmly rooted in the European tradition. The compositions include two free improvs, four by vibist Christopher Dell and two by Jörgensmann, all taking advantage of the unconventional pairing of the clarinet-vibes front line, as well as focusing on openness and creative interplay. The disc commences with "Mr Vertigo", a buoyant and restless track featuring an elastic and swirly atmosphere. Drummer Klaus Kugel demonstrates a cymbal-driven pulse that is both lively and shifting. Tracks like "On Unsafe Roads" and "Veneta" demonstrate abstract notions utilizing both quiet and tension-filled musings, featuring Jörgensmann's expressive, agile ideas. The group explores an angular swing concept on both "Hybrid Identity" and "Rainer Rumpel". Calling to mind al European lake on Dolphy's "Out to Lunch", these numbers contain jagged mallet-work and a swinging, yet gyrating ambience. Conversely, "Poeme" is delivered in an abstract mode, containing almost a metallic feel via Kugel's arco cymbals. The final track, "Greetings to Ornette" begins with a "blink-and-you-missed-it" quote of Ornette's "Broadway Blues" and ends in a restless, yet revealing fashion. This is a compelling tribute to the spirit of Ornette Coleman, in which his radical rhythmic and harmonic ideas are used to form the basis for recreation in their own image in a way that respects the master.
JAZZTHING, Germany, 2002
review by Wolf Kampmann
Focus: Theo Jörgensmann
- Free playing doesn't always go together with the liberation of the listener. Quite the contrary: Once the musician's freedom has frozen into ritual, it frequently calls forth states of trepidation and claustrophobia from its addressees. A musician who has repeatedly redefined freedom anew since the 60s is Theo Jörgensmann. Persistently overcoming interior & exterior boundaries and manoeuvering himself onto the periphery of the German free-jazz community, he has, all the same, received far more international recognition than the phalanx of German improvisers. In countless contexts he has continuously broadened his repertoire and, thereby, over the decades, developed a vocabulary that allows him to move spontaneously into any thinkable direction. Together with his quartet ' comprising Christopher Dell (vibes), Christian Ramond (bass), and Klaus Kugel (drums) ' he generates connections & coherences that are so complex and simultaneously so open that one can't help but be struck with wonder. Here, communication is the highest goal. And communication only works with the listener. Jörgensmann's music is soft, ornamental, supple, at moments almost mellifluous, yet always challenging, sometimes strict, full of surprising turns and system shifts. The new album of the quartet is entitled 'To Ornette - Hybrid Identity' (Hatology / Harmonia Mundi), but the playing itself seldom reminds one of Ornette. Rather, it's the poise and assuredness with which different idioms are woven into a meta-language that strongly calls to mind Coleman's harmolodic system. Jörgensmann purposely seats himself between all chairs, stays out of all entrenched battles, and lets his clarinet dance on the flower-meadow arranged by his co-players. If only sophisticated listening-music were more frequently so entertaining!
FONO FORUM, Germany, 2002
Review by Tilmann Urbach
- Mature Achievement
- There’s hardly a cult-figure in Jazz still living who, like Ornette Coleman, has had and continues to have such profound influence. He is and he will remain one of the most important reference points for thinking musicians of any shade: a guarantee of autonomy, incorruptible by the market, self-referential to the point of stubbornness. He’s a man in his own cosmos, one into which only a few have the right to enter. Pat Metheny did not rest, in his time, until he had played with the Black Player; John Zorn invokes him – to mention only two completely different positions in the Coleman Pool. But such adaptations were to be taken seriously only when they were guided by a strong personality-structure: That is also the case here and is what makes this recording by the Jörgensmann Quartet so valuable.
- On it, we hear a music that, on the one hand, very clearly approaches – especially in the nervous abbreviations, lightning-quick turns, and jumpy, wide intervals – Ornette’s personal style. On the other hand, Jörgensmann adapts these idiosyncrasies with the self-confidence and virtuosity of a master. A déjà-vu? Maybe! But already in the sound of the clarinet lies an (even if small) alienation effect. And in Jörgensmann’s playing, the Coleman-style appears cleansed, lighter, and more, one almost wants to say, European.
- Yet again the Theo Jörgensmann Quartett proves highly interactive. Christopher Dell is the ideal harmonist who grounds the clarinet-player but whirlingly goes beyond on his own way. And the rhythm section is a shining example of free and yet sensitive arrangement. This is simply magnificent music.
- Interpretation: * * * * *
- Sound: * * * * *
DIE WELTWOCHE, Switzerland, 2002
Review by Peter Rüedi
- No great creation without great chaos. The new CD of the German clarinet player Theo Jörgensmann is an homage to cult-saxophonist Ornette.
- Loan words are a game of chance: At the stylistic heights of [Thomas] Bernhard’s theater, confusion about these terms has kicked loose a number of ribald punch-lines – the puffed-up nouveau-riche, she who confuses “Hymn” with “Hymen” or “Katheder” (tr. lectern) and “Katheter”(tr. catheter). However, because language, especially colloquial language, doesn’t give a dime for etymological correctness, even the meaning of loan words can transform or be re-appropriated anew as Neologism.
- Thomas Bodmer is correct, of course, when he points out that this columnist’s use of the word “ultimativ” is sloppy: It means “to post an ultimatum” and not, analogically, as in the Anglo-Saxon superlative, “ultimate”. (I have, since, tried in vain to get the editors to accept the term “ultimat”). Nevertheless, beautiful or not, the term is increasingly being used. “Frugal” originally meant [in German] simple, moderate, barren, but today it increasingly means [in German] the exact opposite: luxuriant. And then there are loan-words that genuinely have several meanings: “Hybrid” means [in German] wanton, sinful in the sense of an overestimation of humans in relation to the gods—or, it means hermaphroditic, mixed, crossbred.
- When Theo Jörgensmann names his new CD “To Ornette – Hybrid Identity,” he is referring to the latter sense of “crossbred identity” as a music against the law of purity: An homage to the legendary cult-saxophonist who comes from the beginnings of Free Jazz, with an introduction of the European Roots. For Ornette – in whose recordings from the sixties no one today can understand how almost no one at the time could miss his roots in Texas Blues and in Bebop – the term is more adequate than for someone who grew up with classical European music. “Schönberg and Webern are my roots” just doesn’t work.
- Nevertheless: “Hybrid Identity” means a taught identity and, if we listen to the eight pieces of this for-many-years-wonderfully-integrated quartet, also an extremely exciting identity. Theo Jörgensmann is one of the great clarinet players of our time, perceived world-wide but much under valued, not least because no one trusts a German, a German group, to have as much dancing elegance, humorous intelligence, sensitive poetry and (fractioned) drive. German Poetry is profound, German humor dull, and German dance brings to everyone’s mind calve-slapping folklore groups. The opposite of all this is the Quartet Jörgensmann: Christoph Dell on vibraphone, Christian Ramond on base, and Klaus Kugel on drums. While playing, the group practices something like an improvisational, organically prolific, gradual consummation of thought and, yet, develops a crystalline logic: Music in the midst of being created, which in the end (meaning after repeated listening) appears like the revelation of a secret plan. Certain paintings of [Paul] Klee transmit such an experience.
- Your Clothes Will Go With You
- A larger essay is needed to explain how Jörgensmann & Co. appropriate Ornette Coleman’s “harmolodic” concept; Peter Niklas Wilson produces an initial outline in his liner notes. This CD is about the appropriation not about the restorative conjuration of Ornette. It is how the musical stream of consciousness flows unforced and, yet, obeys gravity, searching for its way like a non-meliorated river in flatlands, that reminds one of Coleman, of his sudden changes and jumpy abbreviations. Coleman’s strange metaphor says: “When you get up in the morning, you have to put on some clothes before you go out into the day. But your clothes don’t tell you where to go—they’ll go with you wherever you want to go. A melody is like your clothes.”
- And in one more point Wilson is right, concerning Ornette as well as Jörgensmann: “Swing and groove are neither prescribed nor forbidden but one option among many.” In my categories: The ultimate improvised chamber music.
BEYOND COLTRANE (2002)
- Although this album is a sort of love letter to Ornette Coleman, and is compared extensively to Ornette's sound in the liner notes, only two tracks, the title track and "Greetings to Ornette", sound like something Ornette would do in rhythm and harmony, at least to my ears. This is good news, for the quartet uses the other 42 minutes of the disc to explore a musical palette all its own. Even greater news is the quality of the quartet. The actual voice combinations are quite exhilarating: Bb Bassett clarinet (played by the leader), Vibes (played by primary composer Christopher Dell), bass and drums (of course). The wooden, reedy sound of the clarinet and the golden sound of the vibes combine to give my ears an inspiration only matched by Chico Hamilton's great quintet. I also have some ideas forming in my head about my own band, which utilizes trio configurations, sometimes with clarinet, sometimes with vibes. Hmmm. A quartet? Can it be done with breathing space for the freer improvisation? Jörgensmann's Quartet proves true. I'll be exploring in the weeks ahead, and all the while I'll be referencing this disc for support. What about the non-musician? What can he get out of Hybrid Identity? Well, a truly breathtaking hour of music, that's for sure. I hope Ornette receives his love letter loud and clear.
- released in 2000
Review by Ed Hazell
- Clarinetist Jörgensmann's excellent quartet should be better known. They have an open, airy sound, but they can blow with the force of a hurricane, or the delicacy of a spring breeze. The quartet's spacious instrumentaiton, with Christopher Dell on vibes, bassist Christian Ramond, and drummer Klaus Kugel, keeps the music dancing and percussive as well as shimmering and cool. Tunes like "Klaipeda" and "Wiesengrund" display all the rhythmic flexibility and drive of jazz, balanced with a distinctively European sensibility. The closest thing in America would be Anthony Braxton's quartet of the '70s and '80s. Other tunes, like the title track and "Dark Room," are sound abstractions that are as chilly and still as a winter's night. Jörgensmann moves fluidly and with equal freedom through all the registers of his instrument. His solos evolve with startling clarity and surprise, ranging from disjointed hunt and peck phrases to long, angular lines that fork and zig zag like tree branches. He's a major voice on an instrument frequently neglected in modern jazz. His distinctive band keeps the music full of shifting colors and rhythms within the parameters of the compositions. Together they make some of the freshest improvised music coming out of Europe.
FONO FORUM, Germany, 2000
Review by Tilmann Urbach
Light as a Feather
- Clarinet players? Don Byron (sure), Michel Portal or Louis Sclavis, Jimmy Giuffre (as a historical reference), Rolf Kuhn at last. But Theo Jörgensmann? He's been around since the seventies and belongs in this group.but he also doesn't. This could soon change, since newly he has a top-class quartet with the vibraphone player Christopher Dell, the bassist Christian Ramond and the drummer Klaus Kugel: a fabulous sensorium.
- And yet clarinet players are often undiscovered musical light weights, their manouervability tends toward the playful, but in the end toward mannerism. Their instrument, however, is perfect for exploring the musical firmament. Such flighty exploration into the heights and depths is Jörgensmann's program: the discovery of lightness. But the co-players are hardly just secondary. Simply the way the vibraphonist Dell plays around the clarinet, harmonizes, how the drummer Kugel spreads out his arsenal of cymbals (like a composed pleasure grounds of fine and finest nuances) - this is more than just astonishing. And Christian Ramond contributes bowed and plucked subtleties, that all of them are simply a joy to hear.
- All the while, the band hold onto the clever balance between unchained free playing and precisely composed instructions.
- Jörgensmann named his album "Snijbloemen", a graphic title: unfounded, flighty and magnificently radiant - just like the music. What more can one ask for?
- [ Interpretation: ***** - Sound: **** ]
WELTWOCHE, Switzerland, 2000
Review by Peter Ruedi
Jazz plus a Bouquet of Cut Flowers
- Instruments can also go in and out of fashion. That instrument that celebrated triumphs in Swing (with Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw, clarinet players got the status of a pop star) and in Cool Jazz distilled itself into muted whispering (Jimmy Guiffre), the clarinet, needed either the performance of a prima donna or the discretion of chamber music. For the powerplay of Bop, for Soul, Funk, Hardbop and lastly Jazzrock and the orgies of Free Jazz, its tonal body was simply too fragile. If one wants to blow away on it with brute force, it quickly sounds dogmatic or uptight. Exceptions like the bizarre Tony Scott, like Phil Woods, Eddie Daniels or Anthony Braxton (to whom the clarinet was a dear second instrument) confirm the rule. And yet in the seventies and eighties, a clarinet Renaissance began. It produced the wonderful and odd Don Byron, but he was not and is not the only star. John Carter, Michel Portal, Louis Sclavis, Gianluigi Trovesi should also be named - and one who apparently doesn't belong to this league since he comes from Germany. Theo Jörgensmann, born in 1948, is thus a wonder as he - and this is what Peter Niklas Wilson describes it in the clever "liner notes" to Jörgensmann's newest CD - neither comes from the Goodman - nor Guiffre schools, but rather from Bop: from Cannonball Adderley and the early Coltrane.
- This means his playing has "soul" however unusual and polished the chamber music equilibrium is pursued, and he has a tone with high specific gravity. Behind the occasional widely abstract playing, a heart beats. This makes the collective art of this quartet (Christopher Dell, vibraphone, Christian Ramond, bass, Klaus Kugel, drums) some of the most exciting music I have come across in the last few years.
- For Jörgensmann, "soul" does not mean disregarding reason, but rather floating a balance between control and feeling. He is one who fundamentally reflects upon himself and his music."I needed a long" time,. he told Wilson, "to liberate myself from the predominance of my own taste". In addition, "I am convinced that improvised music is the most modern music, since it has led to a completely new type of player, the integral musician, who is a conductor, composer, and instrumentalist. And improviser has to deal with everything himself, from production to marketing. He thinks in social terms when he plays with others; he must be able to formulate common goals and to take on responsibility, but also, when necessary, to step back". Let.s forget it. The music is more conclusive than this program, and more surprising, too.
ALL ABOUT JAZZ, USA, 2000
Review by Glenn Astarita
- The name Theo Jörgensmann may not be quite as familiar to modern Jazz advocates on these shores; however, when we speak of those who have expanded the possibilities and successfully integrated this instrument into modern day Jazz ideologies, let us not disregard Jörgensmann’s noteworthy contributions. With Snijbloemen, the German clarinetist along with vibist Christopher Dell, bassist Christian Ramond and drummer Klaus Kugel provide the listener with a series of compositions that might summon imagery of an intricate or finely crafted sculpture consisting of sharp angles and complex patterns.
- The first piece, “Kospi” commences with simple and somewhat dainty or childlike themes supplemented by Christopher Dell’s backwash of vibes and Jorgensemann’s sensitive and at times whimsical lines. Here, the musicians coalesce as Dell’s extended vibes solo marks a change of direction, meter and flow capped off by the clarinetist’s stinging lines, shrewd utilization of vibrato and beautiful yet altogether blistering attack. Jörgensmann’s unique vernacular on this instrument is nothing short of amazing. Throughout, the clarinetist pursues phraseology that might parallel a hot shot, fleet-fingered Bop saxophonist! Jörgensmann’s circuitous and rapid-fire attack is enhanced by his keen improvisational speak and slashing lines. The piece titled, “Wiesengrund” is a free-Jazz escapade featuring the clarinetist’s scathing lyricism and the band’s spirited style of execution. The tide turns a bit on compositions such as “Dark Room” and “Dark Room (Take 2)” where the musicians construct ethereal tones and motifs via a slightly deterministic methodology while they also invoke a sense of cabalistic isolation enacted in dirge-like fashion.
- In Dutch, Snijbloemen translates into – cut flowers. The “Theo Jörgensmann Quartet” instills earthen qualities along with bright, imaginative themes that summon the mind’s eye, yet the musicians are liable to shift gears or spawn new motifs on a moment’s notice while listening to Jörgensmann’s mastery of the clarinet is just an added bonus! [* * * * ]
ALL MUSIC GUIDE, USA, 2000
Review by Steven Loewy
- AMG EXPERT REVIEW: Clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann has to counted among the handful of consummate modern improvisers on his instrument. His playing evinces a brooding quality, devoid of overt sentimentality, yet he carries a hard bop aesthetic forward to engage modern harmonies and concepts of freedom. Intervallic leaps, technical virtuosity, and melodic invention are all elements in his improvisations. Here, he performs nine pieces (two are powerful alternate takes) written by members of his quartet, which includes Christopher Dell on vibes, Christian Ramond on bass, and Klaus Kugel on drums. There is a somewhat limited palette to the whole that the fine performances cannot always overcome. An overall somber hue, a touch of pessimism even, but nonetheless some wonderfully pensive moments ensue.
THE ORGANIZATION OF SOUND, USA, 2000
Reviews and Other Thoughts
- "When I first listened to the recording I was struck by the wonderful use of Stravinsky-like melodic lines, and the harmonic brilliance that the vibes and Jörgensmann's clarinet made together. Something in this recording, beyond the clarinet, reminds me a bit of Claude Debussy's Premiere Rhapsody. This is a neat recording that wanders through some wonderful areas of free Jazz. It's not quite as dissonant as some of Sun Ra's stuff, but it explores that same post-Atomic Age harmonic disarray. Neat stuff!"
- released in 1998
Review by Peter Niklas Wilson
- He seems to be condemned to living the life of the eternally underestimated, the musicians’ musician, respected by colleagues, but unknown to the public at large. Theo Jörgensmann. His contribution to the renaissance of the improvising clarinet must not be underestimated; but if one believes the Jazz press, the clarinet was only rediscovered when Don Byron came along. This may however be due to the fact that the Jazz clarinetist Jörgensmann has been concentrating on chamber music-like border projects such as the clarinet quartet CL-4, the German Clarinet Duo or his work show ensemble during the past few years. Now he is leading a Jazz quartet again - at least as far as the line-up goes. Conventional role-casting and form sequences are however rarely to be found in the five titles of < ta eko mo >. The thematic material is scanty, and, when it exists it is not very succinct (concise terse) and only improvisation-determining to a small extent. The four musiciansí ability to create, ad hoc an abundance of interaction patterns, textures, and moods is all the more impressive. Clear evidence of collective hearing and playing experience way beyond the borders of Jazz. And it is good to experience the magificent clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann once more in a context which motivates him to activate the whole dynamic and colourful range of his music...
PLANET JAZZ, Canada, 1998
- Sound eclipses time as Theo Jörgensmann’s clarinet floats in introspective exploration. The rest of the band, Christopher Dell on vibes, Christian Ramond on bass and Klaus Kugel on drums and percussion, soon join in inventive excursion. They find the groove and melody bursts loose in collective improvisation.
- There is always an expectant fascination in listening to Jazz from Europe. The musicians have a way of predicating the unusual as they blend ethnic impulses with their feel for Jazz. And, if they have imagination and the intuitive interplay as the Quartett has, who is there to sit back and gripe!
- The Quartet is open to progressive experiments. Their intros to the compositions rove in free fields before they settle into a pronounced, discernible air. Yet the mood does not hold them captive.
- Jörgensmann uses the clarinet expressively. The title track finds him taking a tangent into the upper register before he swoops down into a plaintive wail and then short-jabs the line. Dell comes in to calm the seas and herald a becoming tranquility.
- A funky undertow on percussion lets Jörgensmann ride on top with abrasive playing and make enticing use of the bass notes on „Tsenga“ The two push and weave, the conversation stimulating. „Der Ruf“ finds subtle shades from Ramond and Dell flavouring the melody with pastel tones touching „Couleurs En Mouvement“. It all filters down to an album that, while often intriguing, is always interesting.
CODA MAGAZINE, Canada, 1998
- Clarinetists leading creative Jazz bands are painfully few and far between. But the Theo Jörgensmann Quartet is stacked strongly behind the leader’s piping hot licorice stick on < Ta Eko Mo >. Vibist Christopher Dell sounds every bit the wayward marimba aficionado, spreading out in metallic, higher-register solo runs while hugging his low notes with caressing warmth. Bassist Christian Ramond and drummer Klaus Kugel add blurs of motion behind these frontally abstract-leaning pieces. With a strong solo repertoire and a Jimmy Giuffre tribute in his past, Jörgensmann melds well with his quartet, poking into his lows with burnish and skying out with high blasts that retain their woody colours spectacularly.
JAZZREVIEW, Canada, 1998
CD OF THE WEEK / Jazz at a Glance section
Review by Richard Bourcier
- From Germany comes a wonderful quartet led by clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann. The clarinet, although a featured instrument in early Jazz, has fallen from favor among Jazz musicians in the past three decades. This is certainly about to change with its renewal by Theo and the group. This man shows beautiful control and mastery of his chosen instrument as do the other members of the quartet. The music is certainly in the "free form" category if one is to categorize. However, the musicians share a deep respect for their music and each other. One never intrudes on another's space which leads to beautiful music and a relaxed mood. Even this tired old "Dixielander" found this record most enjoyable and it will earn a space on my shelf of favorites.
JAZZ NOW, USA, 1998
Review by Dave McElfresh
- Hard to disassociate the clarinet from players like Benny Goodman and Pee Wee Russell, but Jörgensmann has yanked the licorice stick so far out of their paws that you'll not be inclined to think of the instrument's rather dweebish past. An instrumental lineup like this one could easily relegate themselves to regurgitating that swang thang of the thirties, but not these guys, no sir. Theirs is the spacious, heady Jazz that European improvisers have made their trademark. Progressive Jazz is often wary of driving less than the speed limit, but these guys are confident enough to chug through thick writing at a pace that allows for lots of air between the notes. That distinct, cutting tone of the clarinet is here used to great effect, soaring over and darting at the vibes and bowed bass notes far below. Very moody, middle-of-the-night stuff.
FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU, Germany, 1998
Rough springboards - The new Theo Jörgensmann quartet at the „Theaterhaus“
Review by Hans-Jurgen Linke
- There it is again, this cuttingly sharp, radiant tone. The Theo Jörgensmann tone, which, two decades ago, started a new era for the clarinet in federal German jazz. Jörgensmann put the emphasis - to use an optical metaphor - on the metallic components of the clarinet and freed them from the wood-warm conventional elegance of swing with masterly brassy overblowing techniques. This is still not often to be heard in the context of free music, and that is why it is good that Theo Jörgensmann is once again on tour with a quartet of improvising musicians.
◦ He has, moreover, wonderful fellow travellers: Christopher Dell, who lends the vibraphone an enormous measure of sonority and dynamics and whose performance sensuously demonstrates to what extent all these soft, carefully dabbed tones are influenced by a high pitched aesthetics of letting go, and how percussive, spasmodic and complex his ragingly fast cascades of tone are developed. And the two pointillists, Christian Ramond on double bass and Klaus Kugel on percussion who develop flowing, and at the same time metallically springy rhythmical continuums - always alert and ready to alter the timbre, to simply drop something of significance and change direction. Jörgensmann does not use the cutting Jörgensmann tone as a distinguishing mark or self-allusion, but as a developed expression of his spontaneous composition. He creates a context of articulation, varies the intonation with dramatic feeling, moves in aimless deliberation with gyrating bell-mouth.
◦ The compositions the group works with are rough, narrow and ingenious springboards for extensive passages of improvisation. One does not just use them to run and jump, one moves in a zigzag, excelerates, hesitates and then has to see where one can land. The material subtily creates a depth which the improvisation always has to take into account. Anyone who was not completely on the ball, who was not able to make a complex plan of musical sequences even whilst playing, would immediately be painfully conspicuous.
◦ No-one was painfully conspicuous. Slight frictions in synchronisation when changing from free to composed passages with complicated metrical figurations were within reason. The readiness to take risks, the feeling of ecstasy, developed from piece to piece and, in the last third of the concert, reached an intensity which resulted in the - much too small - audience giving them a thunderous round of applause.