Half Notes: Conference Call – What About….? (2010)

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by S. Victor Aaron

Gebhard Weber is the German sax and bass clarinet player we introduced here last spring when reviewing the new album by the combo he co-leads with trombonist Steve Swell, The Ullmann|Swell 4. Ullman has other projects going, though and the Conference Call whack jazz supergroup he co-founded is celebrating its tenth year in existance with a sprawling, double-disc live CD, What About….?. Joining Ullmann are Michael Jefry Stevens on piano, Joe Fonda on bass and George Schuller on drums and percussion. Since all four function together as collective improvisers, the live setting (in Krakow, Poland) showcases what this band can do in the best possible light. The jazz is free, but with varying degrees of freedom: there’s basic melodic structure in songs like “Circle” but all out intense spontaneity found on “After Like.” “Could This Be a Polka!” uses polka as a launching point for some more abstract hijinks. No matter what they take on, the telepathy is always strong between the players, the passion runs high, and contorting time and space conventions is the order of the day.

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