Gebhard Ullmann

Out to Lunch

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At this stage in his career, Gebhard Ullmann's concept as a performer was not fully developed, yet the seeds of the future were firmly planted. His muscular sound on tenor sax evidences a bold confidence that came to be characteristic of his playing, and his sense of humor and willingness to experiment can be found on a couple of tracks. Actually, this early album is largely a group effort, and the strong, exciting contributions of guitarist Andreas Willers and drummer Nikolaus Schäuble charge this power quartet with a dynamic rhythmic punch. Ullmann's "Minus One" opens by hooking the listener with the saxophonist's laconic, slightly behind-the-beat quarter tones announcing the catchy, woozy melody. The collectively improvised "No Way" and "The Crawler" keep up the appealingly sluggish pace, with varying degrees of intensity and superb musicianship. Ullmann is particularly fascinating in the upper register, occasionally intertwining with Willers' frenzied guitar, and girded by drums and electric bass. Given the freedom displayed as well as the radical musical proclivities of some of the members, this is a fairly tame set with a stronger jazz feel than might be expected from these performers. It is remarkable, though, in its use of the electric guitar and bass with hard-hitting drums, nominally led by a brawny in-your-face saxophone. As a soloist, Willers plucks with the intensity of hard bop, though he also sometimes soars freely with a rock-like sensibility. While Ullmann blows his soprano sax like a tenor, he is much more comfortable with the latter. The closer, written by Willers, is the most radical piece, with altered notes and free, collective improvisation: a precursor of the more expansive avenues followed by each of these performers in later years.

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