|Ballads and Related Objects is one of those works that make me appreciate the serendipity of jazz's acquaintance with post-Schoenberg art music. Ullmann (on bass clarinet), with his cohorts Jurgen Kupke (B-flat clarinet) and Michael Thieke (B-flat and alto clarinets) combine to form a clarinet version of World Saxophone Quartet, complete with grooving vamps, post-tonal improvisation, metrically sophisticated compositions and preternaturally sensitive group dynamic. All three are serious chopsmeisters, but there's nothing gratuitous about the way they exploit their virtuosity. As all-horn bands go, it doesn't get much better than this.
Chris Kelsey, JAZZTIMES (USA) 11/2005
You might be forgiven for not expecting a trio of clarinetists to tear things up. But the Clarinet Trio- Gebhard Ullmann, Jürgen Kupke, and Michael Thieke-does just that and then some. „Ballads and Related Objects“ has chamber music precision, kaleidoscopic arrangemants, hot blowing, and dynamic overall pacing of ideas and intensities. As well as being adventurous, accessible, abstract and mysterious, their music grooves, too, as on the bluesy „Almost Twenty-Eight“. Ullmann’s tunes deliver plenty to get your neurons firing and foot tapping with multimetric pieces like „Seven 9-8“ and „29 shoes“. Mosaic texture shifts, suspensions and sonority seques appear and disappear in two pensive variations on „Déjà vu“. While most of the pieces are well-rehearsed, uncompromisingly exacting compositions-the trio has been exploring the sound resources of the clarinet, alto clarinet, bass clarinet instrumentation since 1998-they also do some thoughtful free improvising on „Collective 9-12“ that benefits greatly from their intense awareness of each other’s timbre and playing. A highlight is the other-worldly „Variations on a Theme ba Claude Debussy“, with delirious delicate chords, sometimes bent microtonally or overlaid with traceries of overtone entries and exits, gorgeous ensemble playing and touches of klezmer mellisma. Highly recommended.
Glen Hall, EXCLAIM (CAN) 03/2005