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Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Doneda/Frangenheim/Turner – Nail: Live in Ulrichsberg (Concepts of Doing, 2023)

By Fotis Nikolakopoulos

This CD, by Alexander Frangenheim’s Concepts of Doing, almost made it in my top ten list for 2023. The line-up is Michel Doneda on soprano and sopranino saxophones, Alexander Frangenheim on double bass and Roger Turner on drums and percussion. A concert recording from Ulrichsberg, Austria, it captures the trio in fine form while performing two short vignettes and two pleasantly long improvisations. Clearly the bonds they have created through the years by playing, in various formats, together are audible in the final result –the music.

I’ve been following Michel Doneda for quite some time. His ventures into sound and his willingness to experiment and improvise by transforming the soprano, or sopranino at other times, sax into an instrument that defies its tradition, has made him probably the most adventurous soprano player in the post Steve Lacy era. His audio journeys have moved him away from the free jazz/free improv milieu, so this trio CD is very welcome to my ears.

Alexander Frangenheim and Roger Turner are well established improvisers/musicians having played with numerous great players. Turner has always been, in my wanting to listen to small ensembles ears, amazing in duos, trios and small scale formations. What I really enjoy in Frangenheim’s playing is his humble presence. Having definitely defied his role as the time keeper, he is there and at the same time he isn’t.

The trio has built a strong rapport by playing together. At some points it seems that Doneda’s sax leads the way but that is a misunderstanding happening by the very nature of his instrument to dominate. All of them listen to each other; provoke ideas and gestures from the others. They play in unison, an undistinguishable entity.Turner’s polyrhythmic playing leaves the listener with an open mouth (certainly open ears required here) demanding form his fellow players to follow accordingly. Frangenheim’s use of the bass’ whole body allows him, many times, to be the second percussionist of the trio, while he plucks and strikes chords with a fierce grace.

There are passages when the soprano sax takes off in many directions at once, providing a focal point for the trio. His sopranino is more audible on the quieter moments, needing time and space to shine. Even though this is free improvisation at its best, Turner’s drum kit runs the whole road between “jazzy” tunes and totally free playing within one or two minutes on the longer tracks. Live in Ulrichsberg is definitely something you must listen to.

Listen and buy here.