Conrad Bauer

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Hummelsummen Review

by Steve Loewy

Conrad Bauer has worked hard through the years to advance his often astonishing, though sometimes subtle, technique on the trombone. For a long time, he worked out of a vacuum from his native East Germany, where he had few opportunities to interact with musicians from other countries, and where even obtaining up to date recordings was difficult. As a result, he developed an original style that he has continued to refine through the years. For those who play the trombone, seeing (and hearing) Bauer perform live can be exhilarating, in part because he does things that few others can do as well on the horn. On the other hand, solo trombone recordings can be excruciatingly tedious to listen to, particularly for those who are not intimately familiar with the instrument. Unlike his earlier and fascinating though not entirely compelling Toronto Töne, this one does not rely on electronics, but focuses on the pure sound of the trombone. Bauer plays brilliantly (though often surprisingly conventionally), but for most this is likely to be very difficult music to hear at a single sitting. The trombonist uses much in his arsenal sparingly to weave his magic: circular breathing, flutter tonguing, pedal tones, trills, and architecturally complex lines. His articulation is sometimes (and surprisingly) inexact, which might be objectionable to purists, but Bauer is not trying to project a classical technique but to express his personality and original ideas through the horn. He largely succeeds, and while many will prefer his work with groups such as the fabulous Zentral Quartett or Doppelmoppel because of the greater diversity of sounds and the more exciting solos, Bauer is always worth hearing.

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