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Frank Gratkowski & Hamid Drake - 'Frank Gratkowski & Hamid Drake' (Valid Records, 2010)
A couple of weeks ago I was wondering why I hadn't heard from Hamid Drake in a while. The wonderful drummer has been one of my favorites for a while, just because of the soul he puts into his playing. It is hard to describe, and possibly even harder to explain, but the guy's drumkit actually lives! Just to hear him play is an absolute joy, regardless in what context. But my thoughts about him were not yet stored in the archives of my habitual stupor, or here we find him back, with two of the German grand masters of the European free improv saxophone.
This album is absolutely exceptional. If you think that the limited line-up of sax and drums is the best recipe for boredom, think again. What you will hear on this album drags you through the musical universe of two musicians whose capabilities to interact in the moment are pretty spectacular. Gratkowski howls, cries, wails, weeps, screeches, sings, whistles, vocalises. Drake uses his entire arsenal of polyrhythmic skills to respond, to move forward, to create together. Yet it does not stop there, Drake appears equally versatile, and how, in the more avant or free improv environment, where rhythm as such is less relevant than sound and texture, and he does so brilliantly, making rhythm omnipresent without actually playing it.
Gratkowski can be very abstract yet sensitive in his improvisations, like in the first piece, 'Brother G’s Walk', in which his intro is full of vocalised multiphonics, yet gradually the piece gains in intensity, with the drums shifting from accentuating cymbals to tribal drumming, pushing the sax into more fierce regions, full of agony, repeating the same phrase almost hypnotically, and Drake keeps changing rhythms, he just keeps changing the rhythm underneath Gratkowski's repetitive blowing, turning the piece into absolute funk, and the German moves along, without relinquishing his own concept, yet fully part of the fun and funk, then slowing down the volume and the number of notes, while keeping the pulse going, howling to the beat. Just staggering.
I will not even try to describe what I hear, but you get the gist: absolutely great stuff. I have the tendency to be swept away by what I hear, and I like the sax-drums format, but even then... this is great stuff.
Although recorded live, the sound quality is excellent, as if you were sitting next to them.
Aanstaande maandag speelt Frank Gratkowski met zijn voortreffelijke kwartet bij Jazzpower in Wilhelmina, Eindhoven. Met naast de leider zelf drie eminente improvisatoren: trombonist Wolter Wierbos, bassist Dieter Manderscheid en drummer Gerry Hemingway. Niet te missen, want deze groep is slechts sporadisch te zien op de vaderlandse podia. Klik hier voor meer informatie.
(Stef Gijssels, 6.2.11) - - [naar boven]
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