Most of these abstract pieces by Heiner Stadler were originally recorded and released back in the 1970s. Stadler doesn't play on them, leaving that task to some of the finest avant-garde jazzers. The "Jazz Alchemy" suite, in six parts, is performed by trumpeter Charles McGhee, bassist Richard Davis, and drummer Brian Brake. "Three Problems," a single composition presented in five different versions, is played twice by the duo of bassist Reggie Workman and pianist Marilyn Crispell and three times by the solo pianist Joshua Pierce. (The duo pieces were recorded in 1988.)
For the purpose of this CD reissue, Stadler combines "Jazz Alchemy" and "Three Problems" to form a sort of meta-suite. Devoid of harmonic structure, the music is an encounter between free jazz and serialist composition. It's all rather ingenious: the changing ensemble formats, the two works telescoped together, and the subtle intervallic relationships that Stadler uses as a basis for each movement. There's a point, however, where Stadler's ingenuity ends and that of the players begins. These instrumental masters of the avant-garde are the real attraction here. The weighty low-end ruminations of the bassists, Davis and Workman, are particularly sagacious.