Counterpoise | Counterpoise

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Jazz: Hard Bop Jazz: Post-Bop Moods: Type: Improvisational
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by Counterpoise

Counterpoise performs improvised post modern music that has its roots in post bop jazz and is influenced by rock, funk, hip hop, new music, traditional and free jazz.
Genre: Jazz: Hard Bop
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  Song Share Time Download
1. Passing Fancy
7:17 $0.99
2. One Can Only Hope
5:22 $0.99
3. Warm Light Zone
5:05 $0.99
4. Kremlin Chimes
3:49 $0.99
5. Spaene
5:31 $0.99
6. Born Under the Sign of Cancer
4:22 $0.99
7. Doppleganger
3:42 $0.99
8. Remembrance
4:18 $0.99
9. Stairway to the Blues
3:31 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Counterpoise grew out of the friendship that American bassist Mark Dunlap and German guitarist Matthias Ockert formed several years ago during a workshop at the Vermont Jazz Center in the United States. Ockert had studied guitar in the U.S. with Bill Connors and Attila Zoller, and composition with Wolfgang Rihm at the University of Music, Karlsruhe, Germany. Dunlap, a student of Ed Byrne, Joe Fonda and Santi DeBriano, had traveled throughout Europe. Dunlap and Ockert saw an unusual opportunity to bring together musicians from America and Europe to play original compositions. Despite the intervening Atlantic Ocean, they began assembling a transcontinental group.

In August 2003, Dunlap and three fellow U.S. musicians traveled to Germany, where they joined Ockert and two German colleagues for rehearsals. The group began performing at a series of venues, including Roger’s Kiste in Stuttgart and the Musentemple in Karlsruhe. The ensemble grew tight, despite the hottest summer in European memory and the threats of a deranged landlady to evict band members from their lodgings near the Ostendplatz subway station in Stuttgart.

Following the well-received European shows, the band headed to the U.S. for a month’s worth of gigs in New England (during which the Germans endured frequent mechanical breakdowns of the borrowed ‘91 Plymouth Horizon, a.k.a. “The Smoke Mobile”, in which they were touring) and a recording session, which is presented here. The music and partnerships that Counterpoise has created bring to light some of the artistic possibilities of Globalism. The success of this idea offers hope at a time when political relationships between the U.S. and Europe are at low ebb.

Counterpoise, used as a noun, means a stable state of balanced opposing forces. Indeed, the group includes an equal number of European- and U.S.-born musicians. But, the verb form of the word may better describe the band heard on this disk. The players are constantly in action: they offset and counterbalance each other’s energy, musical penchants and personalities.

Musical Director, trombonist and Philadelphia native, Ed Byrne has worked with many of the world’s finest musicians, including Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Joe Henderson, James Brown and many others. Jonny Johansson, who plays a custom-built, nine-string guitar, is a transplanted Swede now living in New York City who performs throughout Europe and North America. (Byrne and Johansson met while completing doctoral degrees at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston.) Dunlap, who lives in Holyoke, Massachusetts, leads other jazz groups in New England and advocates tirelessly for the arts. Mathias Ockert, born in Tettnang, Germany, performs regularly in Berlin and also writes music for film. His brother is trumpeter Hans-Peter Ockert, who lives in Stuttgart, Germany, has studied at Indiana University and has produced several recordings with renowned German artists. Klaus Webel of Rastatt, Germany, one of the most sought-after pianists in Southern Germany has performed solos with the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra, leads his own trio and shares the stage with Hans-Peter Ockert in the band Loungekombinat. Drummer Makaya McCraven of Amherst, Massachusetts, performs with Cold Duck Complex, a driving hip-hop trio, and many other groups in New England; he studies with his father, Europe-based Steve McCraven, and Bob Gullotti of Boston. Tenor saxophonist Geoff Vidal lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, where he is one of the most sought-after and sardonic reed players in the region and who recently won the 2003 Downbeat student music award for best Tenor Saxophone at the college level.

The ten compositions presented here find the musicians fusing a wide range of musical energies and influences — and making the most of the harmonic possibilities of a larger ensemble.

Opening the session is “Passing Fancy,” an intense waltz by Byrne with a haunting melody that fuses elements from Cuba and Brazil. Next up is “One Can Only Hope” by Johansson and his wife, vibraphonist Vesta Maxey. This selection uses a mysterious and strong inner-city groove somewhat reminiscent of the "Crusaders" with an optimistic blues theme to support fine solo work by Hans-Peter Ockert and co-composer Johansson. A rhythm breakdown also exposes Webel’s provocative harmonic substitutions on keyboard. On “Warm Light Zone,” McCraven’s gentle rock pulse underlies Matthias Ockert’s biting guitar lines that serve to guide the horns through the melancholy theme, as Dunlap answers with sympathetic bass figures. On “Kremlin Chimes,” Dunlap arranges the sound of the chimes he heard from the Saviour Tower on a visit to Moscow’s Red Square with some advice from Byrne to create a Medieval wind ensemble opening – and then Byrne juxtaposes it with Spanish-style vamp evoking Mingus' Tijuana Moods. “Spaene,” in which Ockert assembles ‘bits and pieces’ (a rough translation of the title) of classical European motifs that employ powerful unisons and odd meters to feature Klaus Webel, on Hammond B-3 organ, tenor saxophonist Geoff Vidal, and Ockert on guitar over funky modal fusion grooves that culminate with drummer McCraven’s techno beats. Next up is “Blue Rendezvous,” a Byrne-penned meditation in which he summons an extraordinary richness from his trombone, with choral accompaniment from the trumpet and tenor. In “Doppleganger,” composed by Dunlap, Hans-Peter Ockert follows the aggressive exposition with intense trumpet lines that remind one of “Flight of the Bumble Bee.” Webel on organ, acts as the trumpet's doppelganger, followed with a solo by Vidal featuring ghostly double tones squeezed from his tenor; McCraven gives pursuit, taunting and challenging Vidal in a dispute until Dunlap’s vamp cues the band for an abbreviated but emphatic restatement of the head. Johansson’s “Born Under the Sign of Cancer” opens with Webel delivering a cascading introduction to the anthem-like theme with a melodic solo from Johansson. In “Remembrance,” Johansson’s guitar provides a canvass for Byrne’s melodic discourse over an atonal harmonic structure that supplies a more retrospective mood than a romantic ballad. The session closes with “Stairway to the Blues,” a group tour de force in which Byrne’s calls receive numerous responses, climaxing in an old fashioned frontline ‘cannonball’ of simultaneous solos over a stepwise bass line and chord succession producing a non-traditional blues form.

--David Elvin, September 18, 2003



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