|"...as dense and compact as dolphy's 'out to lunch'. without doubt one of the best cd's of the year 2000"
(germán lázaro, cuadernos de jazz, spain)
Kreuzberg Park East
" Kreuzberg Park East is in Berlin, Prospect Park West in Brooklyn, New York. A photograph of the band on the sleeve of this cd is shot from Brooklyn overlooking the river. It's a place i recognise. Strangely enough the new Myra Melford/Joseph Jarman/Leroy Jenkins cd 'Equal Interest' has a similar picture taken from exactly the same position. Mr ullmann and Mr jarman are in fact in almost identical poses, leaning against the railings; they look self-assured and at home. In both cases though there is an element of self imposed exile. Joseph Jarman from Chicago and Gebhard Ullmann from Berlin. Gebhard Ullmann's situation is perhaps better described as a constant migration between the two cities. To some extend this recording is all about that personal journey. However, I would suggest 'Kreuzberg Park East' is also a very good example of how those Europeans and Americans who are actively pursuing the implications of creative 'jazz' design, are taking their inspiration from the two arenas, mapped out in Europe since the 1960's by (loosely) the FMP/Company/Ogun/ICP contingent and in the States by the AACM/Impulse/New York loft scene. Probably Anthony Braxton represents one of the first musicians to bridge these areas of activity. In such circumstances the 'Kreuzberg Park East' title track takes my ears straight back to mr Braxton's compositions in his 40 - 50 series for quartet. This new recording though is no mere past glance at the great experimenters. Gebhard Ullmann and Ellery Eskelin in the same band represent too good an opportunity, if they can only keep this partnership intact it promises to be bigger than both of them.
Half way through a review, where am I going to start ? The start of 'Those 4r' is Mr Ullmann's soprano and mr Eskelin's tenor twisting a written line like a knot being untangled to reveal, not a straight line, but the shape of the knot itself. The beginning relies on just the two horns to lay out the puzzle before the drew Gress/Phil Haynes bass/drum team come in acting like a lubricant. Mr Haynes has a head on his bass drum that is so loose it probably blows about in a breeze. The effect is a hypnotic boomy echo bouncing on the bass line even when the quartet are moving at speed. This band are shaken not stirred. Gebhard Ullmann and Ellery Eskelin both have such clear definition about their playing. The fast tied together stuff works wonders, as on 'Almost Twenty-Eight', but on something like 'Meltema', which switches between each of the four musicians carrying a slow drone figure, the contrasting the front-line partnership is a perfectly balanced whole. 'Meltema' contains a deep bowed passage in which Drew Gress's instrument radiates a kind of heavy presence. Behind this string curtain the horns blow like a gothic organ and as you listen there is a need to keep switching the central focus between the 'front' and 'back' of the performances.
Just prior to getting down to giving this recording some serious listening space i had been doing time with Dave Holland's new 'Prime Directice' (ECM) CD. Mr Holland has been doing the Atlantic crossing for over three decades. His own band has always avoided a piano in the line-up, and on 'Directive' he has two horns up front (tenor sax and trombone). Superficially it is possible to make some connections with Gebhard Ullmann's 'Kreuzberg Park East'. However, despite my enormous admiration for Dave Holland, this 'K.ParkE.' strikes me as the future directive. Dave Holland's early 'Conference Of The Birds' recording, which had Anthony Braxton and Sam Rivers in the same roles as those Gebhard Ullmann and Ellery Eskelin reproduce here, was a 1970's classic. Eventually as time has moved on Dave Holland seems to have moved his operational muse nearer to the centre of things. Personally i have no great problem with this position but the fact of the matter is that by placing a left field tilt - letting the rhythm dictate its own time, pushing a note beyond its pitch, switching roles within a quartet, leaving room for the impromptu extemporisation of the moment, allowing the possibility of the impossible - gets you somewhere where no amount of arrangements can go. What is more, is this, this very act of subversion, that is the reason why jazz is not just another designer label or art house sales pitch. Playing at style, oh no this is a much longer journey. I have no reason to know if Gebhard Ullmann is ever going to play with Herbie Hancock. I tell you, right now it matters as much as whether there is life on Mars. 'Kreuzberg Park East' is just about the best thing I have heard in this century (yes, i know we have only just started, and anyway it was recorded in the last one not this one). It is on soul note so it probably means ordering the damn thing rather than getting it straight over the counter. Try the net. Some things are worth waiting for. The guy has also got other gear out on Songlines and Leo; right now he is travelling between East and West and I have a feeling he has a great deal further to go. Catch up with him at 'Kreuzberg Park East'."