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Franz Koglmann: Make Believe

Austrian composer and trumpet/flugelhorn master Franz Koglmann has spent his career investigating the space between the Viennese school and the cool school, writing and performing intricately detailed, beautifully arranged chamber-like works marked by a stunning elegance of line that one might expect from a former architect. While still referencing some of those concerns-particularly his pervasive Lennie Tristano influence-his excellent new album, Make Believe, revolves around another aesthetic dichotomy, as these eight tunes, six of which were inspired by Jean Cocteau’s novel Les Enfants Terribles, craft a delicious tension between tightly written ensemble play and texture-rich free jazz. It’s his most open-ended, spontaneous recording in years.

Joined by reedist Tony Coe, French hornist Tom Varner, guitarist Brad Shepik and bassist Peter Herbert, Koglmann sets up frequently shifting scenarios that economically highlight these contrasting approaches and sounds. On the title track, for example, Shepik’s effect-heavy sound plays against a relatively straight, swinging arrangement of the Jerome Kern gem, contributing siren-like squalls that give the performance an unsettling undercurrent from the outset; the group goes on to leapfrog from written arrangements to free sections, utilizing ever-morphing instrument combinations. “Rue Montmartre” hangs on a surprisingly simple Peter Gunn-like riff that eventually disintegrates into some inspired collective improvisation that accents Dixieland polyphony with splashes of edgy extended technique. What separates this album from other like-minded order versus chaos exercises is that Koglmann’s writing makes these sudden shifts seem as natural as the sun coming up in the morning. A subtle delight.

Originally Published