Gunter Hampel

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This duet between saxophonist Matthias Schubert and Gunter Hampel, who pulled out the vibes and bass clarinet for this date, is a highly stylized slice of live cutting at a jazz festival -- you guessed it, Hampel' s usual recording spot, Eldena, this time in 1992. This has to be one of the only records -- outside of the Modern Jazz Quartet with Jimmy Giuffre -- where the vibes are mixed louder than the saxophone. It's obvious that Hampel would want parity, but he nearly drowns the guy out in places. There are four compositions here -- all numbered like Braxton's -- none of them less than 11 minutes long. The interplay between the varying instruments and the saxophone is interesting, and Schubert is a fine improviser and soloist in his own right, but this isn't so much interplay as it is Hampel's way of offering his compositions to the crowd and making sure he gets them played his way. When Schubert is improvising, you can hear in Hampel's fills and nuanced riffs in the backdrop the warning not to play too long. The most successful piece here is "18 bar Blues," where both men -- Hampel on the bass clarinet -- are playing through a lovely blues with some interesting twists and turns and modulations on the interval without destroying it. It always circles back where Hampel begins to assert his harmonic dominance and Schubert seems only too happy to go along; there are tonal figures here that articulate themselves as a part of the riff and in the seam of the change and then go elsewhere, snaking back into the fold just ahead of the gate. As the solos move into the body of the tune, Schubert roils through an incendiary -- yet effortless -- series of arpeggiatic motifs that stretch Hampel a bit, but of course never overwhelm him, especially on the bass clarinet. It's a gorgeous piece, quite beautiful in lieu of the rest of the cutting contest on this set.

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