Thomas Heberer

Chicago Breakdown: The Music of Jelly Roll Morton

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An overlooked classic, this incredible duo of Thomas Heberer and Dieter Manderscheid reinterprets some of the major works of Jelly Roll Morton through the disjointed, postmodern eyes of the late-20th century. This is one that has to heard to be believed. Just think of it: take some early-20th century classic New Orleans jazz, and have it performed by trumpet and drums through the lens of two clever, avant-garde German deconstructionists, who somehow respectfully dissect the structure of the tunes without losing their essential essence. It helps that these two have such a broad palette and an ability to literally span the century; Heberer, with his thick tone who moves effortlessly among pre-swing, swing, and the most radical of free jazz styles, and Manderscheid, who is all over the strings. The results are invigorating, disturbing, and wildly imaginative: Just when you think you know where it's going, you might be faced with breaths of air blown through the trumpet, followed by non-syncopated quarter tones. This is seriously humorous music at heart, in the way that a good Woody Allen film might be: you laugh out loud, but you know that underneath it all is something that makes you pause. For those who think that jazz needs an infusion of something new to keep it alive, what could be better than these wildly subversive arrangements? Laugh out loud, maybe dance a bit, and yes, stub your toes: Groucho Marx has met the Simpsons, by way of Sleeper. If this isn't a classic, then what is?