Mixture of European concepts and American know-how

Fascinated by the minimalist textures revealed by balancing percussion and reed timbres plus an overlay of electronics, Berlin-based saxophonist Boris Hauf convened these telekinetic exercises in collective improvisation during a 2010 busman`s holiday in Chicago.
A frequent visitor to that city, Hauf is best known for his work with the efzeg combo, but these CDs are even more reductionist. Replacing the guitars that were part of efzeg with piano micro-tonalism of one-name Austrian Juun, plus his own harmonium playing on Proxemics, Hauf fills out the juddering narrative with contributions from his tenor and soprano saxophones, Keefe Jackson’s contrabass clarinet and tenor saxophone and Steven Hess’s drum beats. Hess, who is almost prominent in metal bands; Hauf and Jackson, who leads his own band and is a fixture in Chicago FreeBop combos; are all accounted for on Next Delusion with the trio augmented by exploratory Windy City bass clarinetist Jason Stein and two additional drummers: Michael Hartman and Frank Rosaly, both of whom gig frequently on the Chi-town Jazz scene.
In all honesty the discrepancy in the sound density between four or six players is minimal. Both measured and lingering the sextet’s four tracks travel a similar linear path as the three advanced by the quartet. If anything the most audible variation is the prominent reed textures Next Delusion. Often Stein’s bass clarinet, Jackson’s contrabass clarinet and the lower notes from Hauf’s tenor inflate together into an exposition of subterranean-pitched, tugboat-horn-like blowing. At the same time the output is never completely opaque, as split tones, snorts as well as linear air movements are also audible. Although the potential exists for rhythmic heavy-handedness from the three accomplished drummers, instead the percussionists are exemplary in cooperation. For every explosion of united rolls, ruffs and rebounds that upsets the chromatic cohesion, there are many more instances of the kit manipulators limiting themselves to rumbling timbres on drum tops or isolating cymbal claps and splashes.
If there’s a defining track it’s “Fame & Riches”; obviously no reflection of those involved with experimental improvised music. Beginning with reed tongue-slaps, flutters and squeaks, bass clarinet slurps and contrabass clarinet slurs eventually coagulate into a dense, nearly motionless reed mass. Finally meticulously angled saxophone lines and microtonal drum slaps reanimate the sequence.
Similar microtonal, chromatic interface is obvious on Proxemics, even if oscillating and shrill signal processing from Hauf’s sine tone and Hess’s electronics are more obvious. So are individual reed and piano strategies that reference Free Jazz. “Social”, the shortest track, contrasts straightforward tenor saxophone split tones backed by piano comping and drum top spanks. As Juan alternates her output between marimba-like string plucks and tremolo keyboard runs, puffing saxophone and clarinet air expelling maintain the track’s fragile equilibrium. Cascading and continuous harmonium washes on “Personal” similarly bring forth razzing sibilates from Jackson plus strident no-mouthpiece body toots from Hauf’s horn.
This combination of austere friction, moderated lyricism and near-ambient electronic synthesis is expanded to its fullest on the more than 29½ -minute “Public”. While the electronic shimmies often produce an unyielding ostinato as the horn men’s slurs slide into one another, there are still enough obvious jagged edges to keep the track lively. Among the standout signs are Juan’s clattering piano keys and tickling minimalist note patterns; bell-ringing and sequence-shattering from the percussionist’s raps and rolls; plus key percussion, mouthpiece whistling and balanced tongue slaps from the saxophonists.
With a mixture of European concepts and American know-how, Hauf and company maintain individual expression among the harmonies and rhythms of extended group expression. Both sessions make an impression and the textural attribute of either band could be advantageously developed by Hauf for further sound explorations.
Ken Waxman

Next Delusion – out now!

Boris Hauf , Keefe Jackson, Jason Stein – reeds
Frank Rosaly, Steven Hess, Michael Hartman – drums

“What can you expect from a Berlin-based saxophonist (tenor and soprano) who also has a parallel activity as an electronic musician? Well… the unexpected. And the surprise here is not only the instrumental configuration – three horn players, three drummers -, but also the musicians associated.  Keefe Jackson (tenor sax, contrabass clarinet), Jason Stein (bass clarinet) and Frank Rosaly (drums) are names you can find in several Chicago avant-jazz projects, but the other choices made by Boris Hauf, also centered in the Wind City, are a puzzling indication that this sextet is not a common Chicagoan enterprise. Michael Hartman (drums, electronics) comes from the noise/electronic ensemble TV Pow, and Steven Hess works normally in brutal metal and “near silence” electro-acoustic bands like Cleared, Haptic and Locrian, going from one extreme to the other. Before even listening to the CD you’re aware of the proposed intentions: to explore all the contradictions naturally introduced by the performers, and to keep alive the inherent musical tensions. And the truth is that “Next Delusion” boils to the point of explosion. Remarkable.”

Proxemics – out since September 2011

Proxemics – out on Creative Sources Recordings.
 
Boris Hauf – Tenor- and Sopranosax, sinetones and harmonium
Steven Hess – Drums, Electronics
Keefe Jackson – Contrabassclarinet and Tenorsax
Juun – Piano
 
Recorded by Adam Vida and Lou Mallozzi at ESS (Studio A) Chicago, April 2010
Mixed by Boris Hauf, Berlin 2011 
Mastered by Todd A. Carter at bel_Air sound studio, Chicago 2011.