Spirals: The Berlin Concert
I can't help but contrast the playing of Gebhard Ullmann on Spirals: The Berlin Concert (482) with that of Ivo Perelman. Like Perelman, Ullmann can walk the altissimo high wire, but he doesn't live up there. He knows when to come down. Conference Call is a cooperative consisting of the multireedist Ullmann, pianist Michael Jefrey Stevens, bassist Joe Fonda and drummer George Schuller.
Ullmann's tenor work on the opener, Schuller's tune "Comeuppance," shows how there's more to free jazz than manic intensity; getting from note to note in a coherent manner can be just as important. Joe Fonda is one of the more clean-toned bassists around; his improvised introduction and subsequent solo on Ullmann's "Dreierlei" is attractively direct. His doubling of the melody with Ullmann on soprano sax is also very nicely done. Stevens plays with a rolling, tuneful momentum. Even his fleetest passages sing. Schuller is a graceful, swinging drummer, always tasteful and capable of driving a band without overwhelming it. Conference Call as a whole swings with a gleeful impetuosity that's hard if not impossible to dislike. Kinda sounds like what the late '60s Miles Davis band might have become had they stayed the course.