Celebrating his 50th birthday, reedman Gebhard Ullmann’s revitalization of his Basement Research band and methodology casts a celebratory spin, undoubtedly evidenced on this 2007 recording featuring a new lineup. In addition, the compositions presented here, span a 15-20 year life as they have been recorded by various ensembles the artist has led throughout his impressive legacy. Ullmann operates at the pinnacle of his game on this incredibly vibrant release. And I’ll go out on a very short limb, stating that this session marks one of his finest recorded documents to date. A bold inference indeed, when considering his voluminous and widely-praised discography.
Contrasts abound throughout via the 3-man horn section’s rendering of numerous tonalities and weaving choruses. Nonetheless, the band is a true force of nature, where rowdy choruses tend to intersect circular phrasings. On "Dreierlei," the quintet speeds up the pulse while throttling back, retooling and then rocketing into torrid soloing ventures. And the tender moments are often spiced with distinct elements of gusto and oomph.
The ensemble delves into solo-drenched free jazz motifs during "Seven 9-8," marked by Ullmann’s razor’s edge baritone sax lines and trombonist Steve Swell’s enveloping and swarming choruses. Sure enough, its music packed with resolve and a forward-moving impetus. In other regions, the artists generate clustering themes while zooming in for the kill by expanding and contracting the primary storylines. But they soften the flow a bit on "Desert.... Bleue.... East," highlighted by Swell and saxophonist Julian Arguelles’ chant-like phrasings and emphatically placed accents. It’s a solemn and rather melancholic composition that elicits notions of a eulogy but segues into an upbeat slant within the bridge section. In sum, Ullmann’s latest brainchild communicates a finely-channeled and energized feast for the ears. (A top pick for 2007.... )