For many years now, the German multi-reedist Gebhard Ullmann has kept fires burning on both sides of the Atlantic, employing some of the finest European and American jazz artists to realize his demanding and stylistically varied music. With Live in Münster he presents the latest incarnation of his Basement Research band, a free-jazz quartet that includes tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Phil Haynes. Ullmann composes and plays tenor and soprano saxes as well as bass clarinet. The group is one of Ullmann’s more conventional bands in terms of instrumentation and concept-though “convention” is an extremely malleable notion when dealing with Ullmann’s work. His knotty, tonally unhinged melodies are arranged (sometimes quite dissonantly) for two horns, girded by Haynes’ fleet free-bop rhythms and Gress’ elastic harmonically subtle bass lines. The saxophonists bear much in common. Both have big, burly tenor sounds and very quick fingers. Malaby is slightly more conformist than Ullmann; literal traces of Rollins and Coltrane are easy to find in his work, whereas Ullmann’s inspirations are more obscure. Both are fine players who work well with one another.
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