The Jersey Lily |cs270









Matthias Müller’s latest album is Foils Quartet’s ”The Jersey Lily“ with Frank Paul Schubert (ss) – a musician I admire since I’ve heard him on Fabric Trio’s “Murmurs” –, John Edwards (b) and Mark Sanders (dr). Müller and Schubert have already worked as a duo under the name of Foils (they have released their debut on FMR) before they decided to cooperate with Edwards and Sanders, who have also worked as a duo before (e.g. on “Nisus Duets” on EMANEM) and who have played as a rhythm group for some of the most outstanding musicians of the English improv scene (like Evan Parker or Trevor Watts).

From the very first note “The Jersey Lily” is almost classical free jazz, music that lives from the excellent communication between the participants. The contrast between the various tone colors of soprano saxophone and trombone is both unusual and attractive at the same time, yet there is a lot to discover beyond this obvious contrast. In general the quartet’s playing is very homogenous and on a very high energy level, which – especially on the more-than-50-minutes-track “Eddie’s Flower” – doesn’t die down, the music remains concentrated and tight. It demands a lot of agility and flexibility from the musicians – like two table-tennis doubles playing on world class level. Edwards and Sanders put constant pressure to the reeds, which is counterattacked by Schubert and Müller with all kinds of structures and sounds. Both take turns – when one is into fast runs and swift lines, the other one delivers longer notes or they simply duel with each other, which makes a finely spun net of honking, squawking, breathing, flapping and sultry reeds sounds. That’s why the band’s approach might be described as rather textural than narrative, but it is absolutely not a mere mind game, though. Even if the music is sonically investigative and intellectually challenging it is also emotional and gripping.

Or – as Clayton Thomas has put it in the liner notes for the first Foils album:
On the surface, we might hear the echo of Paul Rutherford and Evan Parker, but listening closely, the tempos are all wrong, the durations extended to the point of breaking, the counterpoint incongruous with that generations thinking. Another language is being spoken here, one that hears with (eight) ears all that Berlin (and British) improvisers have achieved in the past 15 years integrated with musicality and empathy.  
Slightly modified this goes for the quartet as well. Stef (Free Jazz)

Combine Frank Paul Schubert (soprano saxophone), Matthias Müller (trombone), John Edwards (bass) and Mark Sanders (drums) and you have the Foils Quartet. Play their album and you enjoy some excellent improvised music. Originally Müller and Schubert worked as a duo, named Foils, before inviting Sanders and Edwards. Sanders and Edwards have a long history as the rhythm section of Trevor Watts and Evan Parker units. Müller is a Berlin-based improviser but also plays a role in the new music scene, especially as a member of the Echtzeit  scene( Kai Fagaschinski, a.o.). Frank Paul Schubert is also involved in improvisation and contemporary jazz. Coming from the Aachen-area he played with many, mainly German musicians (Willi Kellers, Johannes Bauer, Alexander von Schlippenbach). So a German-British collective that excels in very communicative improvisations.  What a joy to listen to! Never a dull moment here. Throughout they play intense and concentrated on a continuous high level.
Thrilling playing by Schubert, what a player. They unfold their ideas in two lengthy improvisations: ‘Eddie’s Flower’ and ‘Amaryllis Belladonna’. Recorded live on april 2nd 2013 in Birmingham. ‘Eddie’s Flower‘ takes more than 50 minutes but is worthwhile from beginning to end. A real tour de force. The instruments make a nice colour palette. Especially through the combination of trombone and sax. It is above all the constant stream of musical ideas that make their interplay very rich and fascinating. Quite and subtle textures change for high-energy battles.  Totally gripping music, emotional as well as cerebral if this distinction is of any meaning. Dolf Mulder (Vital Weekly)

The Jersey Lily documents the wind duo of Frank Paul Schubert & Matthias Müller, the Berlin improvisers expanding to a quartet in England with John Edwards & Mark Sanders. The result is classic "FREE" jazz, invoking a kind of transcendence within skepticism (as Clayton Thomas puts it in a discussion of the similar Life in a Black Box, which I discussed here in October, and which made its way onto some "best of" lists). This sort of music is rather the opposite of reductionism, and one might think, restraint. Another album to compare is Live in Madrid, also featuring Schubert with a trombonist, but with more structural pivots. The Jersey Lily can seem kind of long, but it's a very active album, including soloing & motivic development that listeners who enjoy the classic free style will likely appreciate. Todd McComb (

This avalanche in the canyon of free jazz comes from a musical liaison between Germany and UK, the favourable meeting between the excellent wind Berlin-based duo by Frank Paul Schubert, whose empathy with his soprano saxophone and the other elements of the band has a dynamite shape on this record, and Matthias Muller on trombone, and John Edwards (bass) and Mark Sanders (a real octopus on drums!), two brilliant improvisers from the vibrant English scene. This fourtet gave rise to two impressive sessions of so instinctively head-banging and constantly spinning free-jazz that you might wonder what kind of power pill they swallowed to blast their musical energy: the two impressive sessions on "The Jersey lily" - "Eddie's Flower" and "Amaryllis Belladonna"...two clear references together with the title of this release to Lille Langtry, the most beatiful European woman according to Oscar Wilde's opinion which could be reasonably agreed by King Edward VII, maybe the most important and "earnest" (!) of her many suitors - sometimes sound like a proper battle between the two duets (Bass Vs Drums and Trombone Vs Soprano Saxophone!), which scrambled their instruments by means of an overwhelming roller coaster of sounds, techniques and musical scuffles for more than 75 incendiary minutes that got recorded live on April 2nd 2013 at The Lily Langtry Room, Lamp Tavern, Birmingham, UK by Christopher Trent. Vito Camarretta (Chain DLK)

Este é um CD totalmente atípico no catálogo da Creative Sources, e sê-lo-ia até na sua irmã portuguesa Clean Feed. “The Jersey Lily” é uma retoma do formato original do free jazz e, sim, soa a coisa datada. Além disso, tem todos os vícios e tiques deste subgénero: os quatro músicos não criam espaços e há sons em excesso. A qualidade da gravação ao vivo não ajuda: o saxofone soprano de Frank Paul Schubert está demasiado presente – o que torna ainda mais desagradável para os meus ouvidos a maneira pouco imaginativa como fraseia, sempre ancorando em lugares-comuns –, com o trombone de Matthias Muller relegado para alguma distância, como se fosse a sombra mais grave do primeiro instrumento. Por sua vez, a bateria de Mark Sanders eclipsa o contrabaixo de John Edwards. Tudo parece estar errado nas duas longas improvisações aqui reunidas, menos o que é o traço distintivo desta música: a energia. Essa flui e impressiona, deixando-nos divididos entre a adesão ao que é proposto e a vontade de tirar o disco. A carga expressiva é avassaladora, mas tão só porque, mesmo em contexto equívoco, Edwards e Sanders são iguais a si mesmos – dois grandes músicos.
Aliás, este quarteto não é mais do que a junção de um par de duos, o do contrabaixista e do baterista ingleses que já gravou (para a Emanem) como tal e que se juntou a figuras como Evan Parker e Trevor Watts, e o dos sopradores alemães que conhecemos por Foils. A soma não chega a fazer-se sentir – das poucas vezes que Schubert (sobretudo este) e Muller continuam o que lhes é sugerido pelos seus parceiros de ocasião, acabam por deitar a perder a oportunidade. Foi devido a práticas como esta que a tendência reducionista surgiu na improvisação, e muito provavelmente terá sido por isso que o patrão da Creative Sources lançou este trabalho. Rui Eduardo Paes (

Two of Berlin’s most accomplished younger trombonists help pilot these two exemplary sessions. But like participants in a free-for-all race, the polarized strategy each ensemble evolves to reach its goal confirms the elastic adaptability of Free Music. A vehicle for the compositions of veteran German bassist Meinrad Kneer, Oneirology – the scientific study of dreams – showcases nine instances that certify that Kneer’s nocturnal musical imagination is at the same high level as his sentient playing. Dream interpreters here are trombonist Gerhard Gschlößl, who is actually Austrian; Canadian alto saxophonist Peter Van Huffel; and two fellow Germans, trumpeter Sebastian Piskorz and drummer Andreas Pichler.
As commendable during its two extended improvisations as Kneer’s Quintet is in elaborating a more structured form, is the Foils Quartet. Anything but preventative sounds, the band consists of four youngish Free Jazz veterans: trombonist Matthias Müller and soprano saxophonist Frank Paul Schubert from Germany and bassist John Edwards and drummer Mark Sanders from the United Kingdom.
Like trying to report on a hurricane while standing in the midst of one, following the ebb and flow of The Jersey Lily is an all-encompassing task as Schubert’s reed bites and split tones plus glossolalia temper and tear apart the narrative, concurrently moving beside exaggerated cries, melismatic pumps and segmented breaths from the trombone, as the bassist and drummer thump, thwack and resound to keep up. Much of the time Müller and Schubert play an elaborate game of sonic expression, sometimes in tandem, sometimes in opposition and at different pitches and speeds. While Edwards pulse in usually unshakable, listening closely reveals how Sanders cleverly restructures the rhythmic base to reflect the top layer. About one-third of the way through “Eddie’s Flower”, the massive, more-than-52 minute, lead improvisation, the nearly opaque interaction gives way to flatter, stringier passages where the horn players’ chess-like strategies are put into bolder relief. Müller output is breathier and more hollow, while Schubert’s ripostes are agitated enough to almost splinter into atomic particles. With the exposition threatening to dissolve into the realm of pure sound, slap bass and ferocious drum beats break through the vibrating convergence. Like orienteerers realizing that they’re struggling through a mountain path that calls for new strategies, the horn players reassert individual identities with the saxophonist’s output becoming more lyrical and the trombonist’s more blustery. As circular-breathed, high-pitched timbres from one and sprawling plunger growls from the other introduce a speedier interaction, occasional decorative comments from the rhythm section come to the fore, in the form of twanging bass lines and clean drum rumbles. Finally, as if the natural weather disruption has spent itself, all four gradually diminish their compulsive judders so that the track climaxes with expanded, then cut off individual echoes. Edwards’ strums make an effective coda and decisive ending. With the other track a briefer – less than 23½-minute – variation on the same theme, the key appreciating the improvising on The Jersey Lily is to go along with the flow.
Like Truman Capote’s measured prose compared to the sprawl of Jack Kerouac's writing, the Meinrad Kneer Quintet has a different aim than the Fossils Quartet: elaboration of multi-dimensional themes as well as solo virtuosity. The Jersey Lily flowered as a concentrated force of nature whereas Oneirology expresses the emotions engendered during night time imagination. Additionally Kneer’s vision is such that like jigsaw pieces fitting together to make a picture, the arrangement of the quintet’s parts is unimaginable without lining his playing to the others’. Tunes such as “Himmel & Hölle”, “Hau den Lukas” and “Aus dem wundersamen Leben der Salatgurke” may appear as if they’re going to be showpieces for Gschlößl, for instance. However the well-articulated melody of the first depends as much on Van Huffel’s biting reed cries and a waking bass line; the second has drum beats that harmonize with the trombonist’s repetative slurs; and the third propels its jiggly focus through the other horns with Gschlößl’s brass exploration excavating tuba-pitched tones and the climax a showdown between slippery trombone melisma and chunky double bass thumps.
At the same time while the CD is loaded with enough swing motifs and bouncy themes to satisfy anyone who demands bouncy melodies, Kneer’s compositions express other moods as well. Tough as any walking blues via arpeggiated double bass string bumps, “Open Book” modulates towards more wistful sentiments as the vivid horn-melding climaxes with tones both most and melancholy. A similar pensive tinge also appears on “Cherry”, though these magnified emotions, produced in lockstep by the other band members, tale on a cheerier tinge towards the finale with a magnificent display of sprayed textures from Piskorz. With Pichler adding cymbal clashes or drum rumbles and pumps when needed to shore up the arrangements, like a general a battle plan, Kneer has given every musician a part that intertwined makes for a memorable program.
Should your interest be unbridled blowing, careful theme elaboration or just plain high quality sounds, there’s much to attract you on both discs. Ken Waxman (JazzWord)