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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Matthias Müller Days: An Artist Deep Dive (Day 1)

By Martin Schray

Trombonist Matthias Müller is a musician who is somehow underrepresented on our blog, although he is an excellent improviser and has been playing with lots of the usual suspects such as John Edwards, Mark Sanders, Peter Evans, Nate Wooley, Johannes Bauer, Tobias Delius, Olaf Rupp, Paul Lovens, and many more. In addition, he is also active in the field of contemporary music and he also is a member of Berlin’s highly prolific Echtzeit scene. We will review three of his current projects - Foils Quartet, The Astronomical Unit and Rupp/Müller/Fischerlehner - in the following days, but other band like Superimpose (his duo with Christoph Marien), his trombone trio Posaunenglanzterzett with Johannes Bauer and Christoph Thewes or Trigger, a project with Chris Heenan and Nils Ostendorf with which he has just played in south German caves (hopefully there will be a DVD), should also be mentioned.

Müller’s musicianship is outstanding, he commands his instrument extraordinarily well using all kinds of mutes and circular breathing as well as extended techniques like overtones and overblowing. The recordings reviewed in the following days have all been released recently.

Foils Quartet: The Jersey Lily (Creative Sources, 2014) ****

Matthias Müller’s latest album is Foils Quartet’s ”The Jersey Lily“ with Frank Paul Schubert (ss) – a musician I admire since I’ve heard him on Fabric Trio’s “Murmurs” –, John Edwards (b) and Mark Sanders (dr). Müller and Schubert have already worked as a duo under the name of Foils (they have released their debut on FMR) before they decided to cooperate with Edwards and Sanders, who have also worked as a duo before (e.g. on “Nisus Duets” on EMANEM) and who have played as a rhythm group for some of the most outstanding musicians of the English improv scene (like Evan Parker or Trevor Watts).

From the very first note “The Jersey Lily” is almost classical free jazz, music that lives from the excellent communication between the participants. The contrast between the various tone colors of soprano saxophone and trombone is both unusual and attractive at the same time, yet there is a lot to discover beyond this obvious contrast. In general the quartet’s playing is very homogenous and on a very high energy level, which – especially on the more-than-50-minutes-track “Eddie’s Flower” – doesn’t die down, the music remains concentrated and tight. It demands a lot of agility and flexibility from the musicians – like two table-tennis doubles playing on world class level. Edwards and Sanders put constant pressure to the reeds, which is counterattacked by Schubert and Müller with all kinds of structures and sounds. Both take turns – when one is into fast runs and swift lines, the other one delivers longer notes or they simply duel with each other, which makes a finely spun net of honking, squawking, breathing, flapping and sultry reeds sounds. That’s why the band’s approach might be described as rather textural than narrative, but it is absolutely not a mere mind game, though. Even if the music is sonically investigative and intellectually challenging it is also emotional and gripping.

Or – as Clayton Thomas has put it in the liner notes for the first Foils album:
On the surface, we might hear the echo of Paul Rutherford and Evan Parker, but listening closely, the tempos are all wrong, the durations extended to the point of breaking, the counterpoint incongruous with that generations thinking. Another language is being spoken here, one that hears with (eight) ears all that Berlin (and British) improvisers have achieved in the past 15 years integrated with musicality and empathy.  
Slightly modified this goes for the quartet as well.

You can buy it from the label:

Watch a complete concert of the band here:


Dan said...

The Foils Quartet album is amazing. So much intensity--not what you usually expect to find on Creative Sources. It kept me wide awake on a long commute this morning!