Gebhard Ullmann


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Saxophonist Gebhard Ullmann has been one of the shining stars on the German and Dutch scenes for quite some time both as a player who works inside as well as outside the canon of jazz. This set that includes bassist Martin Lillich, guitarist Nikolaus Schauble, and drummer Michael Rodach is comprised solely of tunes from the tradition, though admittedly all over the place within it. The set kicks off with Benny Goodman's "Seven Come Eleven," and the guitar is screaming through the changes as Ullmann solos around the melody and finally through it. The problem is that the guitar is so overwrought that the original's subtly growing sense of frivolity is lost in the metallic overdrive. The same problem occurs in Sonny Rollins' "St. Thomas," where Ullmann's considerable melodic fire is lost in the harmonic invention between bass and guitar solo, which reaches out of the tonal spectrum of colors and implants a searing arpeggio run in the middle of the break. The finest moments are on Carla Bley's chestnut "Ida Lupino," which is interpreted with grace and elegance, and Miles Davis' "Fall," where Ullman holds his own in the maelstrom of guitar histrionics. Ruinous are versions of "Georgia on My Mind," "Satin Doll," and "Epistrophy" that come off as jazz-rock fusion carnival numbers. This is a great idea and these cats can certainly play, but to drag these timeless tunes kicking and a screaming like this by inverting their dynamic and lyrical intentions is a flawed way of interpreting them.

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