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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Axel Dörner & Diego Chamy - Super Axel Dörner (Absinth Records, 2010) ****½

By Stanley Zappa

To quote Nate Doward in the December 2002 issue of Cadence magazine:

"...his abilities as a trumpeter have dwindled to almost nothing. His entire sonic palette is now little more than flatulent releases of air, fed through a reverb device which is kept in the “on” position for the entire performance. At best the results are innocuously atmospheric – rather like the echoey sounds one might hear in a documentary on’s hard not to find the trumpeter’s playing solipsistic, even weirdly infantile, in its regression to the sounds of gurgling, breathing and farting, its indifference to line, shape or direction, and its inability to enter into meaningful dialogue."

Though talking about Bill Dixon, Doward may as well be talking about the state of the trumpet in Improvised music/Art music. In talking about Dixon, particularly Dixon's abilities as a “trumpeter” Doward forever gives us a litmus test with which to place improvised music created on the trumpet. Super Axel Dörner by Axel Dörner and Diego Chamy passes (or fails, depending on how you see things) for the simple reason that without Bill Dixon, there would be no Axel Dörner. Indeed, without Bill Dixon, there would be no “modern” trumpet as we understand it today. Without Dixon, not only would there be no Axel Dorner, but there would be no Franz Hautzinger, no Nate Wooley, no Rob Mazurek, no Stephen Haynes, no Taylor Ho Bynum, no Birgit Ulher nor any of the future generations of trumpet players influenced by the above mentioned. Excessive? Then how about none of the above mentioned—or the trumpet as we know it—would be the same. That Dörner, like all of the above mentioned, has taken Dixon's developments with the instrument and incorporated them into a compelling sonic strategy all his own is only to say that Dörner has good taste; in the words of Kierkegaard "He who is willing to work gives birth to his own father".

If I had to guess those "flatulent releases of air" will simply come to be known as "the way the trumpet is played" while the carressed, thoughtful birthings of perfect little sine waves will enjoy the same relevance the flintlock musket enjoys today. That is the inescapable feeling when Dörner juxtaposes the one against the other—Dörner's fluency with the “weirdly infantile...gurgling breathing and farting” spectrum of the trumpet is that convincing.

As for “flatulent releases of air, fed through a reverb device which is kept in the “on” position for the entire performance” unless he is circular breathing, Dörner employs electronics towards the ends of super human durations of sound. At no point does this come off as gimmick, so no need to call the Guinness book of World Records. Dörner's use of electronics is thoughtful, deepening and prolonging occasions for tonal introspection; deepened without succumbing to garish 16th note cookie-cutter “sophistication,” prolonged without look-at-me-I'm-circular-breathing-repeated triplets.

Diego Chamy can be heard on “vocals” and “percussion.” Imagine Diana Krall and Dave Weckl. Then imagine the exact opposite and rejoice in Super Axel Dörner's “indifference to line, shape or direction,” delight in the absence of so-called “meaningful dialogue” in their interaction. Everybody knows indifference to line shape and form x absence of meaning = infinite creative possibilities (Art, if you will)—just as everybody knows that “caring” about line shape and engaging in “meaningful dialog” is where glittery puffs of Grammy award winning commodity twaddle come from.

In the future, corporate boppers will reference Super Axel Dörner when looking for clues on how to value add their latest release with a track or two of outre-exotica. Why not treat yourself to the real thing?


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a very entertaining review. It's not often reviews of such music make me smile. But importantly some very salient points about how improvised music is perceived are well made. Not too sure the album is for me but my interest is certainly piqued. Writing like this is why I keep returning to this blog. Keep it up

Anonymous said...

God help us. Write a short story for crying out loud. Ever review should not be a master's thesis.