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Urs Leimgruber, Günter Müller & ARTE Quartet - e_a.sonata.02

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Artist: Urs Leimgruber, Günter Müller & ARTE Quartet

Album: e_a.sonata.02

Label: For4Ears

Review date: Apr. 25, 2004

This meeting of Urs Leimgruber (soprano and tenor saxophones), Günter Müller (percussion and electronics) and the ARTE Quartet (a saxophone quartet consisting of Beat Hofstetter on soprano, Sascha Armbruster on alto and electric sax, Andrea Formenti on tenor and Beat Kappeler on baritone and alto) is essentially new-school improvised music, where texture is more important than melody, thematic development or the gratification of any one musician's ego. e_a.sonata.02's most unique features are the material the sax quartet plays, which seems to be mostly through-composed, and Leimgruber and Müller's relationship to the quartet.

Leimgruber's aesthetic has clearly changed dramatically since his emergence as a free jazz player in the 1970s, but the remnants of his past that shine through on e_a.sonata.02 are among the piece's most important elements. Leimgruber's vocabulary includes mostly long-tone harmonics, key clicks and other rather unusual techniques. He generally plays quietly, but he sounds uncomfortable throughout, as if he can't wait to just let it rip like he used to (and he finally does, about a half hour into the piece). Müller's mostly electronic-sounding contributions complement the nervousness of Leimgruber's playing - Müller's noises seem to tremble, never sounding calm or staying in one place too long.

The ARTE Quartet enters only occasionally, with all four members usually entering together. Sometimes they play melodic lines with identical trajectories that begin on different pitches, sounding something like a somnambulant version of one of Anthony Braxton's Ghost Trance bands. The quartet largely lets Leimgruber and Müller stay in the spotlight, which may be why Leimgruber finally ends up playing expressively.

MIMEO's The Hands Of Caravaggio was billed as a modern piano concerto for John Tilbury, which seemed strange until you actually listened to it. Many of the musicians involved (Tilbury, Keith Rowe, Thomas Lehn and others) were known for creating music that sacrificed individual egos for a collective, textural approach, but in concertos, one musician is deliberately set apart from the others. Tilbury's playing on Caravaggio was surprisingly visceral, just as Leimgruber's is here. The six musicians e_a.sonata.02 are not organized as equals, and the piece sounds very much like a double concerto for Leimgruber and Müller. However puzzling Caravaggio and might be given these musicians' histories, however, they're both beautiful records.

By Charlie Wilmoth

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