Franz Koglmann

L' Heure Bleue

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This set is Koglmann in miniature. Leaving the compositions for his gargantuan yet soulfully swinging and improvising machine the Pipetet behind, Koglmann functions in two much smaller settings here: as part of a quartet, and in duet with Misha Mengelberg. The quartet showcases the talents of Tony Coe on tenor and clarinet, Burkhard Stangl on guitar, and the great Klaus Koch on bass alongside Koglmann's trumpet and fl├╝gelhorn. This intimacy, this quiet brilliance and restraint that Koglmann shows here on his works -- some of which (the title cut and "Slow Fox") were initially written for and performed by the Pipetet -- is a statement not only of how versed the man is in the traditions of jazz and classical music but just how aware he is of his own mates' musical strengths. His rearrangement of standards such as "My Old Flame," "Moon Dreams," "Night and Day," and others reveals his willingness to find new colors in the standards by allowing Coe, himself, and particularly Stangl and Mengelberg (who turns "My Old Flame" inside out harmonically) liberties with pitch, timbre, rhythm, and even harmony in order to get at a particular selection's essence and bring it into the daylight. There is great -- though very warm -- humor in Koglmann's interpretations as well; he finds the odd musical phrase, highlights it, bends it, and then turns it back on itself much as Alfred Hitchcock would cameo in each of his films. Koglmann brings his austere Second Viennese School upbringing to bear in the larger group; here, even his own works -- as angular as they can appear to be -- are firmly in jazz territory. How much of this is shaped by his collaborators is arguable. But where these edges show themselves on "For Bix" and "Leopard Lady," they are quickly subsumed by the ambience created by the various musical structures and the melodic framework created around them. The crowning moment of the entire album is on Ellington's "Black Beauty," where you would swear Coe and Stangl were Paul Gonsalves and Barney Bigard. The easy swing of a piece, which was written for a group much larger than this, is painterly, tender, full of warmth, and even a knowing laughter. Why he included his own "Nachts" to close the CD is a mystery, given that it is the only brooding piece on the record, but it is terribly beautiful nonetheless. Mengelberg's large chords in the lower register give the intro a noirish quality before Koglmann's melodic, mournful fl├╝gelhorn slips underneath the piano to remind both of them this is a "song" they're playing. Mengelberg's insistence on improvising through the line is brilliant but maddening -- but isn't he always? It's a strange close to a phenomenal, truly gorgeous record by one of the most mysterious and brilliant minds in creative music.

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