Dusted Reviews

Frank Gratkowski - Facio

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Frank Gratkowski

Album: Facio

Label: Leo

Review date: Jul. 20, 2004

It’s great that German reedist and composer Gratkowski has kept his splendid quartet together for so many years now. Along with trombonist Wolter Wierbos, bassist Dieter Manderscheid, and percussionist Gerry Hemingway, Gratkowski has composed an impressive book of music for this still-electrifying group. Following Kollaps (Red Toucan) and Spectral Reflections (Leo), this latest recording delivers familiar pleasures which have not yet worn out their welcome, alongside a few new developments.

Of all the dozens of multi-reedists out there, Gratkowski has long struck me as one of the most distinct: on his alto he coos and cauterizes, while on his B-flat clarinet he constructs wild intervallic edifices, or on his hulking low reeds he pumps up the pressure chamber. Yet his compositional voice, particularly for this charismatic group, has become equally distinct. I’ve always thought he was at his best when combining his flare for outrageously tight detail with the looseness of not so much wide-open free jazz as a constantly mutating Braxton collage composition. And on this hour of music – a suite in 10 parts, recorded over two days on Gratkowski’s home turf, at LOFT in Cologne – the quartet knowingly delves into that very musical intersection.

Wild and wooly texture-mangling leaps from the knottiest of pulse tracks (and again, it’s worth saying that Hemingway and Manderscheid are much more than time-keepers or colorists). Tendrils of counterpoint constrict ever tighter until structures pop open to let loose streams of extended technique and morphing colors. There are long stretches of joyous four-way exuberance, as on the appropriately titled "Rush" or the delightfully funky closer "Celebration." Gratkowski and Wierbos spend even more time trading wacky textural vocabularies than on previous releases, with Frank playing his straightest Benny Goodman to Wierbos’ wild undulating, or sometimes treading contrabass muck while Wierbos channels the spirit of Tricky Sam Nanton. Each of Facio’s 10 parts cycles through a number of different styles and influences, and the whole is designed to showcase both the individual and group talents marshaled here. For example, there’s a dizzy update of Mingus-like hog-calling on “Mix Up,” where Gratkowski chortles above the rattle and scrape kicked up by Manderscheid and Hemingway.

Highlights such as those abound on this recording. I was expecting a more-of-the-same disc, which I would have enjoyed. But Gratkowski has raised the bar again by writing a suite of music that has freedom written into the 10-part form itself, not just the freedom of players within the forms. So kudos to Frank for keeping together one of the best working bands today.

By Jason Bivins

Other Reviews of Frank Gratkowski

Loft Exil V

Read More

View all articles by Jason Bivins

Find out more about Leo

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.