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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Frank Paul Schubert, Olaf Rupp, Lothar Ohlmeier - Entropy Hug (Not Applicable, 2024)

By Martin Schray

Actually a simple thing. Three men come together - all prominent representatives of the Berlin Echtzeit scene - to record an album. Frank Paul Schubert is one of the best European saxophonists, who often plays with English musicians such as Paul Dunmall, Paul Rogers, Mark Sanders and John Edwards, but also with Matthias Müller or Alexander von Schlippenbach. Olaf Rupp is also an old acquaintance, his releases with Rudi Fischerlehner (Xenofox), his various duos (for example with Ulrike Brand or John Hughes) and his trios with Rudi Mahall and Jan Roder (or with Kasper Tom) have already been discussed on this website almost euphorically. Lothar Ohlmeier, who has also been around for over 35 years and is one of the unsung heroes of his instrument, is definitely one of the most exciting European clarinetists. Three real warhorses, nothing spectacular, you might think, but the combination of sonic possibilities is somewhat unorthodox: soprano saxophone, bass clarinet and guitar. Real tonal contrasts come together here with the clarinet and the sax. And then a guitar?

The question seems to be what kind of music is displayed here. Is this chamber music, as the liner notes claim? Music that takes the idea of the classical piano trio (violin, piano, cello) further into contemporary improvisational music and opens up completely new possibilities with the diverse expressive possibilities of the three instruments, free from stylistic or dramaturgical restrictions, to transform the color of individual notes and combined sounds into a lively texture? Or is it this kind of free jazz respectively improvised music, which is decidedly “European“, but whose existence would be inconceivable without American jazz, and which is nevertheless a language of its own?

In any case, we listen to sonic serpentine lines, driven to a point where intensity and sound unite to create intellectual pleasure. Almost 50 minutes of exuberant sound abstraction by the two reeds, held together by the spider’s web of open guitar chords. In their dialogs, the two wind players make furious use of their instruments. They buzz, creak, chatter and smack, chirp, whisper and grunt. The musicians give musical form to the exhaustive tonal variations in long improvisations: expressive and emotional, sometimes hectic and rushed. It is often Schubert who shapes the pieces with his idiosyncratic melodic style, with slowly developing, minimalist figures that intensify and break off again and which are taken up, modified or counteracted by his partners. Then again, wide ellipses seem to be thrown in the mix (especially by Ohlmeier), whose lines approach, overlap, diverge again and circle around an imaginary pole. In the quieter moments, the three explore the sound possibilities of their instruments and their interplay; in the faster moments, Schubert alternates furiously between the homely warmth of the low register and the icy coldness of the high register. Olaf Rupp cushions these designs with his arpeggios and harmonics, but also with shrill interjections with a somnambulistic lightness - best heard in “Old Dog New Trick“.

This is music that opens the ears and at the same time is unconventionally exhausting (but easy at the same time) to listen to and relentlessly self-referential. Entropy Hug is an excellent album, no doubt.

You can buy and listen to the album here: