German saxophonist Norbert Stein is an important progressive-jazz artiste, largely within European circles and has not yet become a well-known name on these North American shores. Here, Stein is the composer while conducting the fabled NDR Big Band throughout this 2-CD set. Nonetheless, he employs NDR for a rather dramatic sequence of vibrant tone poems, spanning disparate angles and rhythmic foundations. Complete with tricky time signatures, expressive and combustible horns, the music is also steeped in wit and slanted metrics, while at times eliciting a liquefying effect.
With the piece titled "Franz Patang - Part IV," the band delves into a free-form mindset, accelerated by darting choruses and intense sax lines that instill gobs of movement - like boxers engaging in a sparring session. But in other segments, they tone it down via unorthodox charting and fractured rhythms. The Graffiti element iterated on these works parallels youth culture via an urban landscape smattered with divergent portraitures and depictions. No two pieces are starkly alike, which is a component that sustains interest.
The composition titled "Der Vogelschwann," is an up-tempo and brassy arrangement, where lament, jubilation and African pulses come out you with the rumble of a freight train operating at full throttle. Stein is like a scientist in a lab! He constructs motifs that feature Afro-Cuban pulses in support of eerie and droning background banter as notions of a hazy dream come to fruition. And on "Hot spots, Tai Chi & More," either Mario Doctor or Mark Nauseef execute a tympani pattern that is contrasted with screaming horns. Therefore, Stein’s brainchild is a garden of polytonal and contrapuntal elements, marked by off-kilter swing vamps and multi-cultural inferences. In sum, this outing signifies a milestone in his irrefutably, impressive musical career.