Gebhard Ullmann: tenor & soprano saxophones, bass clarinet
Michael Jefry Stevens: piano
Joe Fonda: bass
George Schuller: drums, percussion
Conference no longer needs introduction. It's the stellar free jazz band consisting of Gebhard Ullmann on tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, and bass clarinet, Michael Jefry Stevens on piano, Joe Fonda on bass, and George Schuller on drums. A kind of supergroup if you want.
The first piece, called "After Like, Part 1" is fully improvised and creates an otherwordly eery environment, without real established rhythm, or patterns whatsoever. It is organic and flows like the wind, grows like nature, with the power and drive increasing as it moves forward. It is fantastic. The next piece is in the same vein, certainly at the beginning closer to free improv than to jazz.
Then you have a style-shift for the next three pieces, which are composed, and built around traditional concepts, although they do evolve into exploratory timbral excursions, yet the harmonics, the theme remain the central focal point, whether ballad-like, as on "What About The Future?", or boppish as on "Circle".
CD2 starts with "After Like, Part 3", the qualitative equivalent of the first tracks of the first CD, fully in the same vein, and equally stellar: Ullmann's playing is fabulous, but the eery accents by Stephens, Fonda's arco and Schuller's extended use of percussive possibilities are of the same high level.
But then to my dismay, the next piece is a polka! True, it gets the necessary deconstruction, but to hear this somewhat humorous track after you've been entranced by a fabulous musical universe, is a real shame. "Litmus" is boppish again, and the last two pieces could again be part of the more serious atmosphere of the first track. Ullmann is better than I have heard him before.
So you get the bizarre mixture of real artistic creation with some silly or plain entertaining music, true, all brought with great skills and drive, but somehow not fitting together.
A selection of the best pieces on the album would have resulted in a real musical treat. Two great albums in two different styles somehow got mixed here. (from Free Jazz)
2010 CD1 / CD2