All About Jazz
The duo Postmarks consists of London-born Austrian saxophonist Boris Hauf and the Chicago-based American pianist D Bayne. Their first CD Western Ave (Luminescence, 2005) was a limited-edition of only one hundred copies packaged in unique covers, each a handcrafted collage from twenties Chicago postcards. For National Parks, the duo went to Vienna to record with experimental guitarist Martin Siewert, maybe best known for his work with Trapist or in Hauf’s Efzeg. The outlines for the ten pieces the three recorded were composed by Hauf and Bayne, and inspired by U.S. national parks and their representation on posters from the thirties and forties.
Without veering too close to programme music, the pieces clearly display the influence of the material that inspired them. They are gently melodious and have a mellow tranquillity that is easy on the ear without risking becoming soporific. Occasionally there are traces that the two have been mindful of the thirties/forties origins of the posters, most obviously in Hauf’s sax work. For instance, his rising phrase that opens “Hubbell Trading Post at dusk” sounds borrowed from the big band era and will have many listeners racking their brains for its inspiration. Three of the pieces appear in two versions—distinguished as “at dawn” and “at dusk”—and comparison of these reveal that the compositions are not prescriptive but allow the players considerable leeway for interpretation and improvisation, to the extent that—at over eleven minutes—”Hubbell Trading Post at dawn” is over twice the length of “Hubbell Trading Post at dusk.”
As the inspiration for the music was a combination of nature (the parks) and nostalgia (the posters), the choice of Siewert as a guest player with the duo was an intriguing one, maybe signaling that Hauf and Bayne were seeking to avoid the music becoming overly pastoral or nostalgic. If that was the intention, Siewert—with his minimalist style and use of electronics—was a good choice to help steer the music clear of such things. In practice, Siewert plays a typically understated role, contributing just enough coloration to brand this as twenty-first century music; for instance his judicious injections of electronic noise clearly brand it as neither pastoral nor nostalgic. An inspired choice by Postmarks.
The beautifully designed digital collages that adorn this release, each reworking elements of 1920s posters advertising American national parks, apparently inspired musical outlines for the eight pieces here. Postmarks are the pianist D Bayne and the saxophonist Boris Hauf, who on this, their second album, are joined in places by the Viennese guitar experimentalist Martin Siewert. On the whole these are slow, moodily beautiful piano and sax improvisations, with Bayne’s forthright, oftener minimally repetitive piano providing a framework over which Hauf drifts smoky, semi-melodic lines. Siewert’s contributions are few and far between, but add an abstract electronic coloring that does just enough to keep the album, away form middle ground jazziness. Difficult to firmly categorizes, National Parks often veers close to tuneful politeness but retains an atonal edge throughout that undermines everything and provides a nervous and intriguing quality to the music.
– The Wire
We like the music of saxophonist Boris Hauf, as can be read on previous reviews here. On these albums Hauf demonstrated his skill to create a sonic mood, a coherent environment sculpted with sound. On “National Parks” he is accompanied by D Bayne on piano and by Martin Siewert on guitar.
The music is inspired by the posters for US national parks from the 1930s and 1940s, which strangely add the dual color of evocating nature, while at the same time coloring with sentiments of bygone days.
The music is quiet, well-paced, subtle, beautiful, not cheerful but also not really sad, but rather solemn and light-hearted, if that is possible, and then Siewert draws a solid nail through the musical poster, ripping every sentiment of comfort you may have had.
Some of the tracks are real miniatures, short often minimalist pieces full of finesse and interesting playing, and they are as good as the longer pieces, which are on the second part of the album, with more room to develop the ideas while at the same time allowing for more emotional depth.
In a way you could qualify the music as free jazz impressionism, because of its concept and its accessibility and obvious beauty on the surface level, yet at the same time, the music remains open-ended, like nothing is definitive, with more abstract threads of sounds left unraveled, as if there is a question mark behind it all, and with some darker undercurrents, something fearful and unexplained, mayby unexplainable, hidden in the invisible parts of the scenes yet present, or with traces of the past somehow still lingering, only to be caught with sound, with repetitive arpeggios, slightly bending notes on the sax and screeching guitar sounds.
On “National Parks” Postmarks reflect upon the appearance of various U.S. national parks and their representation on posters of the 1930s and 40s. Still, even without this background knowledge, the extemporization of this classic sax/piano line-up is impeccable.
Auf “National Parks” reflektieren Postmarks das Erscheinungsbild diverser US-Nationalparks unter Berücksichtigung ihrer Darstellung auf Plakaten der 1930er und 40er Jahre. Dieser inhaltliche Background spiegelt sich freilich in einem Saxofon-Klavier-Duo höchstens rudimentär wider, wenn überhaupt. Und auch ohne das Wissen darum funktioniert die Extemporierung der klassischen Besetzung hinaus ins freie Feld tadellos.
– felix freistil.klingt.org