CD: TALES FROM THE FOREST
1996, LEO LAB CD 024 // 12 Tracks // 58:03
Musicians Christoph Gallio soprano & alto sax // Eduard Akulin trombone // Mart Soo electric guitar & effects // Kalle Laar electric guitar & electronics // Takashi Kazamaki percussion // Production notes All copositions are by the ensemble // Recorded live at Strange Fruit in Osio, Japan, 1995 November 23 by Katsumi Kawasaki // Edited by Takashi Kazamaki // Mixed and mastered by Katsumi Kawasaki // Fotos inside by the musicians // Graphic design by Leo Records // Cover art by Theresa Marcis
ALL MUSIC, THOM JUREK
Ensemble Uncontrolled were a big band who performed a small series of gigs together and made this recording as a part of the Free World Big Band Project sponsored by the Japanese government, the Goethe Institute in Tokyo, and Lufthansa Airlines. Given this group's name, and the reputations of its players -- guitarists Martin Soo (Estonia) and Kalle Laar (Munich), percussionist Takashi Kazamaki, saxophonist Christoph Gallio from Zurich, and trombonist Eduard Akulin (also from Estonia) -- one would think of an extreme free improv workout that taxes the stamina of the listener. This is totally untrue. Tales From the Forest is a highly structured form of improvisational music -- no it's not a contradiction -- and an organized form of musical communication for all five performers. Everything here relies on the structure of mode and interval, and the interaction, of different musicians with each other at different times. How it works is determined by how well one player listens to another. In 12 different settings, duration is determined by the length of the first phrase and its ensuing interval between one soloist and another, or between ensemble and soloist. With no time frames other than those self-imposed by individual players who state a first idea, things could go on forever, but don't. The Ensemble seem to know inherently that more force and expression can be generated in shorter lengths, allowing them more settings for improvisation -- this disc was cut live in the studio and there are no overdubs or tape edits. The 12 selections here are actually one continuous work with 12 sections (making individual titles irrelevant); times are allocated on the CD booklet to give the listener an idea of where new modalities were found and new intervals created by contrasting harmonic and timbral considerations. The result is a compelling and intricate web of interactions by five excellent improvisers whose sole purpose is to play in trio settings with one another until all possibilities -- or tape -- run out. Hence trombones and guitars exchange sonances while saxophones and electronics and percussion move through intervallic flashes of angular acrobatics at varying tempos. The only exceptions to this rule are two full quintet pieces near the end of the album that are striking for their restraint and rich, textural microtonal improvising, and a quartet minus Soo in the middle of it. This is a close listening experience for those interested in avant garde music, free jazz, and improvisation; some of the changes in intervallic exploration are very, very subtle, but extremely well-crafted and intoned. Ultimately, Tales From the Forest is a fascinating, difficult, and subtle treasure of the genre; it's a shame this band didn't get a chance to make more recordings together because as fine as the communication is here, one can only imagine what it might be if the individuals in Ensemble Uncontrolled were given more time to become familiar with one another's idiosyncrasies and playing styles. Alas.