Gebhard Ullmann

Essencia

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Gebhard Ullman's many projects have made him a hard man to pigeonhole. While he sometimes prefers combinations of instruments just off the beaten track (as on his Clarinet Trio recording), this one uses the conventional grouping of reeds, piano, and string bass with uncommonly delightful results. Perhaps not unexpectedly, Ullman transforms the potentially ordinary into something just a little bit different. To be sure, most of the pieces are freely improvised, and there is little sense of anything definitive being created. Yet, with very slow tempos and a quiet beauty (for example, on the stunning title piece, during which the bass clarinet and bass gently caress), Ullman succeeds admirably in crafting a delicate construct that is uniquely his own. There are times, on "Gospel," for example, when the intensity invigorates, but these are the exception. Even on this piece, repetitive 16th notes draw in the listener with a mesmerizing, hypnotic pull. Throughout, all three musicians play as if every note is the last. There are no accommodations to cliché, and conventional assumptions are dismissed. Thus, the listener is always left guessing and is therefore surprised by the turns and curves, however slight. While melody, per se, is not a large part of the equation, there is often a profound sense of melodic invention, improvised on the spot. Neither Ullman nor his colleagues are interested in impressing with acrobatic displays of technique, yet all three at one time or another show their mettle. The results incorporate some of Ullman's best work, a transition perhaps, but a harbinger, too, of more to come.

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