The first Basement Research project for Gebhard Ullmann was issued in 1993, and since then, he has convened many different shaped and sized ensembles. New Basement Research presents a program comprising older material that he is revisiting, recapitulating, revising, or as liner notes author Bill Shoemaker calls it, rebuilding. Retaining his sense of high drama, dense textures, layers of sound stacked on high, and an overblown harmonic drive, Ullmann has re-formed this band into a powerful quintet of old and new friends. The title is also telling in that there is a familiar underground base of operations centering this music, heightened by the emphasis of bass clef instruments that dominate. Ullmann's bass clarinet is the nucleus, with the baritone sax of the wonderful and underappreciated Julian Arguelles, and Steve Swell's trombone dipping into lower registers of primitive and modern abstractions that agreeably fit together. Gerald Cleaver's electrified, everywhere-at-once drumming style lights the fuse and keeps the fires brightly burning, while bassist John Hebert adds quite different shadings, not so much as a steadying influence as one that completely understands, and can operate sensibly amidst the chaos. Ullmann's tenor sax is in good abstracted humor as Cleaver's romping and stomping attitude during "Seven 9-8" also suggests carnival, circus-like madness. The bass clarinet and baritone sax dive into the murky waters of Atlantis during "D. Nee No," as Swell's trombone dodges sharks while the others freely explore the depths, discovering a Latin modal style similar to John Coltrane's "Ole," then building an impenetrable fortress of sound. "Desert...Bleue...East" is a pitch black waltz that flowers into a spirited song, while "Gospel" evokes the aural visage of a churchy, bluesy New Orleans funeral procession. One of Ullmann's most revered compositions is "Dreierlei," a scattered and diffuse vehicle for the horns and the soprano sax of Arguelles, injecting a New Orleans funky mishmash of dense and swirling hard bop. "Almost Twenty Eight" is a heavyweight contemporary funk piece, based on a 20/7 beat form, led by Ullmann's throaty bass clarinet, inducing clarion calls, howls, shrieks, and declarations of independence. "New No Ness" combines swing and funk rhythmically, off-the-cuff and unrestricted, except by hardcore feelings and the unexpected, drastic tandem punctuations in the irony of life. This remarkable ensemble -- extroverted to the nth degree -- is always thrilling, concentrated, and intense, non-stop in all respects. New Basement Research is a recording that should satisfy every listener inclined to appreciate this stripe of fierce creative contemporary improvised music -- faint hearts not allowed.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos