Ton Art's music grows directly out of everything that ever was in jazz and European music. Period. A lot of people try this, and a lot of bands are successful at it to some degree, Franz Koglmann for one -- the heart of this unit, Burkhard Stangl, is his guitarist -- who began this investigation into creating something new out of the tatters of old signatory systems. Ton-Art have upped that ante by combining everything at once and trying to alter the very identities they've adopted for their determinedly cross-purposes. The opening track, "Der Tod Meiner Kleinen Anarchistin," by bass clarinet chair Johan Karl Steiner, holds the early Ellington-ian harmonic arrangement up to the flame of Berg's overture to Lulu and pushes it through the eye of the harmonic counterpoint needle first threaded by Jimmy Giuffre. But as a sextet, this isn't good enough; there have to be free jazz strains of 12 tone rows abutted against dodecaphonic avant-garde-ism. Then, on top of this, on "Das Seschste Gebot" (Steiner again) mutilates Anton Webern's violin concerto -- at least the initial fifths -- and turns their near-lyrical grace in against themselves in a cacophony of jazz aggression and honking almost Ike Quebec style. So what to make of all this Euro twaddle calling itself art? Call it artful, call it artless, and call it garbage if you want to, but you'll never extinguish the heartfelt, humor, virtuosic sophistication, or musical genius that is Ton Art. This is music of a caliber that transcends its collage pretensions and program music tomfoolery. Here are all the musical structures of Western culture placed in the context of conflict without hope for resolution, with the only bridge between them being improvisation and the will of a collective of composers who know their stuff cold. They can mix it, because the match is in the setting up of conflict for the sake of meaning, not resolution, whether it be in jazz, classical "new music," or the poetry of improvisation. Ton Art have, along with Koglmann who blazed the trail, set a new paradigm; not only for examining a past that is coughing up its last breath, but for a future that preserves relics by coloring them with the shapes, tones, and languages of others.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek