RT 9347 (2013)
Thomas Heberer -
All About Jazz - By MARK CORROTO, July 20, 2013
A first time recording from a pair of longtime collaborators, Knoten finds German trumpeter Thomas Heberer and pianist Achim Kaufmann performing a series of stark duets. Confederates since the 1980s, the pair come across as a natural fit. Perhaps the rise of minimalist and free trumpeters like Axel Dorner, Peter Evans, and Franz Hautzinger and pianists Matthew Shipp, Andrea Neumann, and Sten Sandell makes the timing right for this session. Kaufmann, a frequent collaborator with Frank Gratkowski and Wilbert De Joode, also recorded the stellar discs Second Reason (2012) and Grünen (2010) with Christian Lillinger for the Clean Feed label. Heberer, a member of the Instant Composer's Pool (ICP), has also found critical success with his band Clarino, an inventive trio with bassist Pascal Niggenkemper and clarinetists Joachim Badenhorst. The music on Knoten balances its scored chamber music approach with improvisation and extended technique. Leaving one to ponder if the breaths Heberer takes on 'Großer Onkel" (Big Uncle) are scripted or impromptu. The trumpeter displays some fine circular breathing here, while Kaufmann investigates the insides of his piano. Heberer can imitate the sounds of a baby crying or a dog panting, as he does on "Maâchoire." Even though the pair are skilled at extended technique, the freedom displayed is not the main attraction here. Their 'sounds' are made in service of the compositions, both scored prior to this session and instantly composed.
Free Jazz - Stef Gijssels, August 25, 2013
Thomas Heberer on trumpet and quartertone trumpet, and Achim Kaufmann on piano, go back a long way. They studied together, played lots of music together, then moved in different geographical directions, now meeting again for a fantastic album. Most tracks start with some idea of what is going to happen, yet then both musicians turn the material into fabulous excursions of calm nervousness, or restrained tension, really going beyond the boundaries of genre or style. Is this jazz? Is this modern classical music? You can wonder.
What you know is that each piece has its own precise musical character, sometimes moody, sometimes joyful, often both at once, sometimes contemplative and sometimes jubilating. What you don't get is repetition, patterns or other solid foundations to stand on, what you get is permanent surprise about what's going to happen, wondering which ways the notes will go, and strangely enough both musicians know, because they move together as one, away from your expectations into new realms of wonder. You can wonder how the notation took place. Yet they explore, they take a journey in their own music, building on the ideas, and expanding them, keeping the original character all the time.
The result is one of refreshing drama, clever sensitivity, precision in rawness, disciplined invention, and this with a broad and open-minded vision on music.
The most amazing thing about the album are the incredible varietiy of ideas, the shifts and changes, and the overall coherence. Of all the albums reviewed in this post, it is without a doubt also the most adventurous, going at times sonically beyond the natural voicing of each instrument, yet without overdoing it.
For sure one of the most interesting albums of the year.
Ken Waxman - The New York City Jazz Record, September 2013
Following a 30-year gestation period, Achim Kaufmann (piano and prepared piano) and Thomas Heberer (trumpet and quarter-tone trumpet) have recorded their first duo disc. This program of highquality improv was worth the wait but one wishes they had done so sooner. Teenage conservatory roommates and jobbers, Heberer and Kaufmann subsequently established themselves elsewhere. Today, the NYCbased Heberer is best known as a member of the ICP Orchestra while Kaufmann, now a Berliner, is occupied in many Continental ensembles, most notably with Frank Gratkowski and Wilbert de Joode.
With all nine tracks credited to Kaufmann, Heberer or both, the selections are concerned with tryouts and tropes, not story-telling, the players uncovering novel ways to meld or contrast textures and timbres. This is facilitated with extensions available from quarter-tone trumpet and prepared piano. For instance, the piano string stops, strums and plucks gradually insinuate themselves within the jerky narrative of “Mâchoire” after Kaufmann’s methodical note placement angles that way. In reaction, Heberer turns from open-horn note sprays to baby whines and dog yelping simulations without altering the midtempo melody. By mid-session both men put aside their more measured and hesitant byplay for erudite humor. For example, the pianist’s warm voicing on “Großer Onkel” is interrupted by the trumpeter’s razzing lip burbles before the two attain a staccato blend of key clipping and metal buzzing. In a similar fashion, Kaufmann’s comping turns from soothing to jagged on “Ohrschuft”, the better to push Heberer’s legato phrasing into a collaborative theme.
Knoten translates as “knots” and the trumpeter’s unfinished phrase at the finale of the closing “Kleimasker” suggests the two are prepared to untangle a few more knots on a future date.