Kurt Gramiger

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It can be difficult for a sax-led trio to forge a unique sound, but this one manages to so, with the players interacting intensely, following the lead of Kurt Gramiger, whose alto sax is notable for an usual elasticity and creative drive. The first two tracks contain much of what is to come: quirky rhythms, angular sax thrusts, strong and confident drumming, and a powerful presence from one of Europe's leading bassists, Daniel Studer. The first track, "Das Überzeugte," sets the tone with interval leaps, rough-edged alto wailing at full-force, while, in contrast, a Paul Desmond-like sound coupled with oddball syncopation permeates the sixth track, "Das Konstruktive." The music appears almost entirely improvised, but there is a surprising variety considering that there are only three players at work. Gramiger is in his element on the freestyle pieces, but he clearly comes from a jazz background, as he formulates inventive lines, and varies them within tonal contexts. Although he rarely uses advanced techniques (one exception being on "Das Wendige," with its Evan Parker-derived blowing), his forced squeaks, "little" sounds, and elastic flow emphasize a seemingly endless stream of ideas. Studer and Dieter Ulrich are a formidable pair at bass and drums. Neither takes easy paths, as is evident on "Das Grüblerische," where they eschew conventional patterns, with the bassist relying on long tones that morph to a quiet, high-pitched flight, while the drummer digs hard with his brushes. On "Das Wendige," they show how powerful a presence they can be, as the piece explores a diverse range of passion. Almost halfway through the lengthy piece, the sax drops out and bass and drums duel wickedly for three minutes, a highlight on the disk as they incorporate fascinating rhythms and textures with continuous surprises. This Swiss release may be hard to locate, but it is worth seeking as it suggests some innovative approaches for the sax-led trio.

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