Albert Mangelsdorff Quintett
June 22, 1964
Jazz Haus 101-727180 GRAM VINYL + FREE DIGITAL DOWNLOAD
Recorded live at Freiburg on June 22,1964
• Now Jazz Ramwong
• Set ‘em up
• Theme from Pather Panchali
Albert Mangelsdorff (trombone),
Heinz Sauer (tenor and Soprano saxophone),
Gunter Kronberg (alto saxophone),
Gunter Lenz (bass),
Ralf Hubner (drums)
Track one, “Now Jazz Ramwong,” starts off with an angular tenor sax solo that sounds influenced by Lateef and Coltrane. The following alto sax solo is more lyrical and linear. This isn’t really “free jazz”; it has an element of free jazz and the avant-garde, but it’s more like an early “world music,” a description that hadn’t yet been invented. “Ramwong” refers to a Thai fold dance, and folk dances don’t lend themselves to atonal assaults.
“Set ‘em Up” features a tremendous alto sax solo by Kronberg. It’s fluid, searching and reaching, like Coltrane. The tone is pushed to the breaking point, but not as far as Coltrane took things. It sounds like a taught membrane, about to rupture. Mangelsdorff’s trombone solo is wondrously precise for such a tonally advanced chord structure (the trombone, with no definite pitch, is probably the most difficult jazz instrument to play—slide position has to be perfect). The “hard bop” unison playing is impeccable, and worthy of comparison to the Jazz Messengers, and the other prime US hard bop players.
Side two begins with “Raknahs,” and features a powerful and stately bass solo, then finishes with a fine duet between bassist Lenz and drummer Hubner, with a lengthy feature for the drummer.
The trombone solo from “Burungkaka” shows Mangelsdorff to be one of the best trombone players of his generation, and any before or since. The surety of his tonal center sometimes equals that of JJ Johnson, which might be blasphemy to some, but it is what it is. The guy knew exactly what he wanted to play and nailed it. Because he doesn’t rely on keys or valves to “find” the pitch, he has to hit it just right with his Embouchure and his slide position. Try to “scat” sing and hit every note dead-center, and then imagine you have to use your right arm and your lips, at the same time. It’s amazingly difficult stuff, and he excels.
“Theme from Pather Panchali” has more good work by Mangelsdorff, followed by a “Trane-like” tenor solo. It seems Coltrane was a big influence on both the saxophone players. Can you blame them? That’s like saying a baseball player was influenced by Ted Williams, or an Indian nationalist was influenced by Gandhi.
The Sound & The Package
The sound is good, though I think it’s in “very big mono.” That’s fine. The tonal balance and detail are very good. I’d rather have an audience perspective (where there is no stereo spread in real life), than the artificial left-right ping-pong of early jazz stereo recordings. The dynamic range and frequency extension are excellent. I don’t know if it’s a digital source for the vinyl mastering, but it doesn’t sound like it. It’s very smooth and real.
The strength of this group of relative unknowns (to American-centric jazz listeners), is their ability to play as a cohesive unit, and explore many different styles of music. All these players would “fit in” in a van Gelder session in the golden age of jazz. Though the sax players were heavily influenced by American players, Mangelsdorff is one of the finest jazz trombone players ever. A must for trombone collectors, and recommended for fans of “world music” and “hard bop”. The great releases keep coming from ArtHaus. All have been consistently excellent.
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