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Friday, March 10, 2023

Günter Baby Sommer & Raymond MacDonald – Sounds, Songs & Other Noises (Clean Feed, 2022)

By Stef Gijssels

In 2007, in the early days of this blog, I was enthralled by the brilliant "Delphinius & Lyra", a duo performance between German free jazz drummer Günter 'Baby' Sommer and Scottish saxophonist Raymond MacDonald. 

It was a treat then, and so is this second album by the duo, so many years later. The album captures two performances in Edinburgh, in 2016 and 2019, yet they are produced into a seamless whole here. Both artist have a long legacy - each in their own musical space - to create their own signature sound and inventive use of their instrument. 

What I loved on the 2007 album was the unassuming, authentic freedom of their music, playful, lyrical, creative, intense and laid-back at the same time. And it is basically the same now: it is fun, and both musicians are having fun too. They enjoy what happens and they want us to be part of this. Some of the pieces start with composed little themes, as the joyous "Hiking Song", or they explore a possibly agreed musical concept, as in the slow and cautious "Precious Metal" on which sparse percussion sets the background for long bouts of circular breathing, yet the overall sense of freedom and almost existential joy of music itself permeates every note and sound. 

Each time you think you've heard it all, they still come with new ideas, new rhythms, new sonic possibilities, like the rambunctious "Kitch In", on which Sommer seems to be playing with kitchen utensils, or the tribal rhythm and mesmerising sax on "Wooden Trail For Delicate Steps", a warm and welcoming quietly dancing piece, which leads us to even delights in the suite-like "Five Miniatures", each one of them a short relish of aural pleasure, short, refreshing, tasteful, sweet and with some unexpected shifting flavours, that are as surprising as they are pleasing. 

The music itself is not boundary-breaking, but its quality, its ideas and the exceptional interaction make this an easy album to recommend. 


Listen and download from Bandcamp

Watch "Wooden Trail for Delicate Steps"