Günter Baby Sommer and Till Brönner - Baby’s Party

80

The Free Jazz Collective

Today we present two contrasting views of the Günter Baby Sommer and Till Brönner's 'Baby’s Party.'  Be sure to read Martin Schray's less flattering view here.


By Nick Ostrum

Günter Baby Sommer was the percussive force of the East German free jazz scene and is today an avant-garde institution in his own right.  Trumpeter Till Brönner is of a younger generation and one the luminaries Germany’s post-bop scene.  At first, I found this collaboration somewhat curious.  However, as Thomas Brückner’s illuminative liner notes point out, the collaboration is already 8 years deep and has been greeted with skepticism since its earliest days.  Indeed, Brückner is right that the jazz world has had enough bracketing for a little while.  It is time “to overcome what divides, to build bridges, to develop a conjoint language that respects the Otherness of one’s coun­terpart and moulds into a new whole what both sides have to offer.”  In this case, both sides indeed have much to offer. 

From the very beginning, Baby’s Party captivated me.  The first track, “Apero con Brio” begins with the clump of a bass drum and cymbal, followed by a crisp, brief trumpet phrase.  The two continue in disjointed dialog until Sommer settles into a slit drum groove over which Brönner waxes his brass poetry.  This act sets the tone for the rest of the album.  The result is playful, yet intimate.  Its sensibilities range from pop (or, at least, standards) to Sommer’s ever-inquisitive, ever-resourceful explorations of timbre, resonance, and rhythm.  “First Shot” follows with an arrhythmic rattle of glassware generated in part through the scrape and ding of actual utensils over which Brönner layers a lonesome, echoing trumpet.  Next comes a mournful, then briefly exuberant “Special Guest No. 1: Danny Boy” wherein the musicians seize the space and initiative to deconstruct and reinterpret sections of the Irish elegy.  “Flinke Besen” is a race paced by Sommer’s rapid brush roles that seem to delight more in the sound produced by distinct combinations of strokes than the percussive onslaught that drumkits often tempt.  “Second Shot” features Sommer on the mouth harp over which Brönner tenderly improvises.  (I think I hear the trumpet reverberating off a dormant snare in the background, which lends an ethereal feel to the track.)  “A Soft Drink in Between” begins with an ominous layering of gong, bells, and split drum.  Brönner enters with a muted, wistful horn augmented by an echo effect.  This poses a stark contrast to “Inside-Outside-Trip,” which opens with Sommer’s enigmatic vocal incantations and develops into a funky bop number.  The influence of Miles Davis on Brönner is unmistakable.  Sommer and Brönner share melodic duties on the infectious “Third Shot.”  “A Little Nap in Between” begins with a whispered brass and percussive drone that develops into a slow and dreamy duet and fades again into a fading murmur.  “Special Guest No. 2: Der Alte Spanier” incorporates Spanish-tinged brass, welling drum-lines, and a return to Sommer’s ludic vocalizations.  As a celebration of old age and life (presumably), it serves as a fitting complement to the solemnity of youthful loss inherent in Danny Boy.   The final track, “Party Over – In a Sentimental Mood,” begins with a crackling that evokes the pitter-patter of rain.  When Brönner enters with the first notes of the melody, it is already clear that what follows will be a sparse, tempered, and contemplative affair.  Or, rather, an end to the affair.

This album is excellent.  The two musicians play well with the space and individualization that that such a format allows.  They approach each piece (all except “Danny Boy” and “In a Sentimental Mood” written by Sommer) not just as a distinct composition, but also as a movement within a greater opus, or a scene in a story.  Each track has its merits and makes a unique contribution.  Nevertheless, the power of this release resides in the narrative coherence that underlies the stylistic diversity.  It also resides in the openness, responsiveness, and eagerness with which these two distinct and distinguished musical minds - thoroughly accomplished in their own corners of the jazz world – came to this exercise in bridge-building.  Such projects rarely work out this well. 

Baby's Party by Günter Baby Sommer, Till Brönner

Sun Nov 11 06:00:00 CET 2018

40

The Free Jazz Collective

Today we present two views on Günter Baby Sommer and Till Brönner's 'Baby’s Party.'  Be sure to read Nick Ostrum's positive take on the the recording here.


By Martin Schray

Although Till Brönner is regarded as one of the best jazz trumpeters (at least if it comes to sheer musicianship), his reputation among improv fans is not the best (to put it mildly). Many people resent him his participation as a juror in “X-Factor“, a German casting show similar to “American Idol“. His cheesy The Movie Album, the snoring boringThe Christmas Album or the simply horrible muzak on At The End Of The Day (on which he ill-treats pop classics like David Bowie’s “Space Oddity“ and Lennon/McCartney’s “And I love her“ not only with his trumpet, but also with his vocals) did the rest.

As if to prove to all his haters that he can also do differently, Brönner has been cultivating his friendship with East German free jazz drummer legend Günter Baby Sommer for years, both being appointed professors at the Dresden conservatoire. Now the two have decided to release an album on the excellent Swiss Intakt label. Nevertheless, scepticism was the order of the day. But when you listen to the album for the first time, you might be positively surprised. “Apero Con Brio“, the opening track, sometimes sounds as if a mellowed-with-age Bill Dixon meets a swinging Hamid Drake on wooden slit drum.

However, you realise very soon that it’s completely predictable what the two of them are doing. Brönner is obviously able to imitate any style and Sommer offers him eleven simple templates to prove it. Yet, you notice quite soon that something is missing. There’s no authenticity or musical vision, the music doesn’t feel genuine, it seems that especially Brönner is just showing off. It’s as if he was saying: “Hey, look, if I only want I can play free jazz as well.“ That he actually can’t can be heard on the two cover versions on the album. Just listen to the first two minutes of Fred E. Weatherly’s “Danny Boy“, where Brönner is no better than the poor candidates in the casting shows, who try and express emotional peaks, of which there are many, with an over-extended, whining melisma, before the track wanders off to some pointless improvised territories. The other example is Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood“, actually a piece where you can hardly do wrong. But even here Brönner fails to find the soul of the piece, he’s abandoned the implicit brokenness and sadness in favour of polished vanity. Even Günter Sommer can't save anything here anymore.
There are lots of excellent trumpet/drums duos (Nate Wooley & Paul Lytton or Darren Johnston & Tim Daisy, to name just two). Sommer & Brönner don’t belong to them.

Baby's Party by Günter Baby Sommer, Till Brönner


Sun Nov 11 06:00:00 CET 2018