Waxman | Aural Innovations


CLAQUE  [Meniscus Records] MNSCS 006
By Ken Waxman


Innovations usually depend on a singular flash point to begin. Axel Dörner has provided it for the trumpet’s future. On this, the Berlin-based brassman’s first solo disc, he has consolidated his trumpet concept and created a session that will probably be consulted by valve students and others for years to come.

Ignoring all the brass fanfares, mellow caresses and straightahead melody making most associate with the cylindrical wind instrument, he uses every part of the horn to slice, dice, splice and spice sounds. Along the way, he transforms how we conceive of and hear the trumpet as profoundly as Briton Evan Parker did the saxophone with his first disc as a leader in the 1970s.

Dörner’s improvisational strengths have served him well in collaborative roles with such aggregations as the King Übü Orchestrü, Fred van Hove’s t’ Nonet and bands with the likes of drummer Sven-Åke Johansson. So, to amplify and serve as a backdrop to his ruminations he welcomes two associates from Chicago — cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and percussionist Michael Zerang — who have a similar experimental bent.

Lonberg-Holm, who moves from the cello’s weeping arco capacities to its strummed guitar properties and much in between, and Zerang, who has always explored the outer limits of his percussion set, add the necessary elasticity to the session. That way it become more than an aural textbook of extended brass technique.

Like many such non-hierarchical improv sessions as well, the two contribute their own innovations, so there are times you’re not exactly sure to which instrument a certain timbre should be ascribed.

On “Krug,” for instance, some rolling throat buzzes from Dörner morph into what could almost be a trombone tone, while the cellist creates an bowed ballet and someone (Zerang?) stirs the musical pot with a noise that sounds suspiciously like duck calls. On the other hand, canine barks escaping Dörner’s trumpet seem to make their appearance on “Kasu” as what appears to be the striking of wooden marimba keys is succeeded by drum patterns half way between African polyrhythms and the door pounding of someone locked out of his apartment.

Throughout, the trumpeter performs the spit and air-borne magic that allows his cylindrical horn to vocalize like the voice of a cartoon buccaneer, whisper like a member of a conspiratorial coven or produce floating, ghost-like overtones. Congruence of sounds and timbre often takes place, but nowhere, except briefly at the end of “Ranzen” do the three musicians really play together.

Innovation is rarely easy. Some purists after hearing part of the disc will likely toss music stands and practice books at the sound system as they run screaming from the room. Hipsters may insist that trumpeter-educator Bill Dixon tried similar tonal experiments nearly 25 years ago.

Still, with this CD, Dörner has created the best thought out summation of extended brass technique in a small group setting. If for no other reason, it’s why Claque demands attention.

Axel Dörner, trumpet
Fred Lonberg-Holm, cello, hose segment
Michael Zerang, multiple percussion, tubaphone



April 2001
CLAQUE  [Meniscus Records] MNSCS 006
by Jerry Kranitz

Axel Dorner, Fred Lonberg-Holm, Michael Zerang – “Claque”

Dorner (trumpet), Lonberg-Holm (cello and “hose segment”?), and Zerang (percussion and tubaphone) team up to produce an interesting set that combines avant chamber music with noise, elements of jazz, and experiments with pure sound. It’s sometimes difficult to tell what instrument is producing a sound and I’d often swear some form of electronics are being utilized. Lonberg-Holm’s cello is usually the leader and wears many faces, from harsh and agonized bowed clatter to a variety of plucked tones. Dˆrner’s trumpet is traveling incognito as I’m often unable to detect it, though when it does reveal itself it’s to add bits of jazz to the proceedings. Zerang is credited with “multiple” percussion and indeed there’s a variety including all manner of skins, cymbals, blocks and much else I’m sure. The highlights for this listener are the ventures into whimsical chaos (“Jar” is a standout track in this regard) that sound like avant garde tributes to Carl Stallings. The Meniscus web site refers to their recordings as being improvised and if that’s the case on Claque then the communication between these musicians is impressive as much of the music is structured with such a sense of direction that I would have guessed it was composed. Other high points are the moments of cello and jazz trumpet that make for some of the CD’s more interesting moments. The contrast and cooperation between the two is intriguing. At one point (on “Ranzen”) the trumpet and cello seem to be dueling but in an instant come together in a single tone that took me by surprise for the sudden harmony it produced. Overall, an enjoyable set that will reward fans of small ensemble improvisation.

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