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Saturday, August 19, 2023

Lina Allemano, Uwe Oberg, Matthias Bauer, Rudi Fischerlehner - SOG (Creative Sources, 2023)

By Martin Schray

SOG is a quartet by trumpeter Lina Allemano, bassist Matthias Bauer, percussionist Rudi Fischerlehner and pianist Uwe Oberg - in other words: three excellent members of the Berlin Echtzeit cosmos are augmented by the most prominent musician of the very lively Wiesbaden scene (Oberg). What is more, SOG is the German word for “eddying“ or “maelstrom“ and this is exactly what the quartet’s music is like. The four pieces “El Remolino“, “Il Vortice“, Le Tourbillon“ and “Malstrom“ all mean the same thing in different languages. This is why at least the three major pieces are structured alike (“Malstrom“ is only a very short encore). As a listener there’s no way to escape the magic, the energy and the sheer beauty this music develops over the course of almost 60 minutes.

“El Remolino“, the opening track, is the perfect example of the band’s idea for this project. It’s reminiscent of a typical Cecil Taylor piece from the 2000s. Before the wind instrument kicks in, the rhythm section leads up to it. Oberg uses delicate Taylor-like clusters, Fischerlehner plays the Tony Oxley/Paul Lovens part with strong emphasis on snare, cymbals and extended materials, Bauer drives forward unobtrusively, yet uncompromisingly. When Allemano’s trumpet finally begins, it blends smoothly into this structure, its tone pointed and clear. Here and there she sounds like a military trumpeter in a free jazz band. But the fact that the band has its own concept becomes clear already in the duel between Oberg and her, because here the pianist deviates from any Taylorian influences and goes his own way. If the listeners think they might be able to focus less, the music pulls them back in - as in a maelstrom. Out of nowhere the sound of Allemano’s trumpet changes, one thinks she literally tears the notes apart. Oberg responds with prepared sounds reminiscent of a spinet. From this moment on, both instruments float feather-light above the bass and drums, and Bauer and Fischerlehner realize that they only have to be supportive here. In these first ten minutes the piece is as if from a single mould, it’s a prime example of European free jazz - only to disintegrate completely (which it does not, of course)! The drums lose their pulse, the same goes for the bass. The trumpet meanders in nowhere, the piano sets very sporadic notes. Bass and drums scratch around on their instruments. It seems as if the musicians leer at each other to see who will lead the improvisation back to the beginning. In the end, it’s all of them together, through intensity and volume. Powerful chords, sharp, bowed bass lines and pointed trumpet runs are all it takes. Fischerlehner, interestingly, stays completely out of it here, which adds to the energy level. By the end of the piece, the band is actually back to free jazz, but with different timbres. Fischerlehner’s drums are darker, more driving (this is where it comes into play that he’s also at home in the rock realm), Oberg plays flashy, high notes, while Bauer and Allemano again try to tear the piece apart sonically. In terms of structure and energy control, “El Remolino“ is certainly one of the best pieces I’ve heard this year, and “Il Vortice“ and “Le Tourbillon“ are in no way inferior to it.

All in all, SOG is a great band and a great album. Whenever I come across Uwe Oberg, I think that I constantly underestimate his way of playing, the same goes for Matthias Bauer (I have to make amends here). Then again, I’m a big fan of Rudi Fischerlehner, whose restrained but incredibly versatile style of playing has always fascinated me. However, what Lina Allemano does on this album, is outstanding. The way she plays with varied sound colours and textures makes the difference that this album is not just very good, but outstanding.

SOG is available as a CD and as a download.

You can listen to the album and buy it here:


Stef said...

Great review, Martin. I've been listening to this album for the last week and it is indeed outstanding. Many Creative Sources albums have something minimal and introspective, but this one is exuberant and extravert, powerful and intense. I love it.

Martin Schray said...

I love it, too, Stef. Thanks for the nice words.