The Squid's Ear Magazine

Ensemble 5 (Geisser / Blumer / Staub / Morgenthaler / Dell): The Human Factor (ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)

The long-running quartet of percussionist Heinz Geisser, bassist Fridolin Blumer, pianist Reto Staub and trombonist Robert Morgenthaler have for years extended their 4-tet with a 5th guest, here asking vibraphonist Christopher Dell to join them in the studio after a successful live performance in the spring of 2022, capturing this spectacular, wide-ranging example of collective improvisation.

Price: $18.95


In Stock

Quantity in Basket: 1

Log In to use our Wish List
Shipping Weight: 2.00 units

Sample The Album:

product information:


Heinz Geisser-percussion

Fridolin Blumer-double bass

Reto Staub-piano

Robert Morgenthaler-trombone

Christopher Dell-vibraphone

Click an artist name above to see in-stock items for that artist.

UPC: 752156105329

Label: ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd
Catalog ID: ezz-thetics 1053
Squidco Product Code: 34808

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2024
Country: Switzerland
Packaging: Cardboard Gatefold
Recorded at Powerplay Studios, in Maur, Zurich, Switzerland, on October 9th and 10th, 2022, by Reto Muggli.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"It was - let's put this mildly - interesting to listen to this music at Easter. We maybe pay insufficient attention to listening contexts. For all our slightly weird insistence that art, whether of word or sound, is sufficient to itself and needs no external references, when we listen to something can profoundly affect our reception of it.

So, to Easter. There was, inevitably, much said in churches and outside about the natures, acts and reactions of a small group of first century Galileans, gathered round a charismatic healer and prophet whose death seemed to contain a great revelation. Secularists and non-believers will have switched off already and will point out that the recording you are holding is called The Human Factor and not "The Gospel According To . . .", but the parallels with what we are dealing with here are intriguing. Those Galileans are known to us as the Apostles (upper- or lower-case, as you prefer). They were given a message, which they were charged to pass on, and along with it, the authority to invest others with the power to deliver that message, too.

Names in a sense don't matter. Apostleship seems always to involve some kind of suspension of individualism. At which point, you might see where this is going. Modern jazz has often been represented as the art of the individual. The US State Department and CIA rather insisted on this during the Cold War, when jazz (along with abstract expressionisms, jeans and Coke) were offered up as America's response to the hive-minds of fascism and Communism. But jazz began as an ensemble music, as far as we can tell. It may have contained great individualists, but it was about groups and combos and orchestras, not "name" acts.

So, to your probable relief, we turn to a man who has for much of his distinguished career involved himself in performing situations that relegate his name to small print. Heinz Geisser is possibly best known to you as a driving spirit in Collective 4tet (such marvellous albums as Orca, The Ropedancer, Live At Crescent, and Synopsis) and more recently in Ensemble5. (The name might be a puzzle at first, though anyone who remembers other groups who favoured 1 + 1 = 3 titles will understand: the "fifth member" is the guiding spirit of the music itself, not the guest.) But as to the group names that Geisser has favoured, we tend in the Anglo-Saxon West to be a little suspicious of collectivism, or anything that seems to submerge personal identity in any kind of ideology or group-think. But, of course, groupthink in the most positive sense is precisely what improvised music is about and ideology doesn't have to be a doctrinaire rulebook.

A hundred years ago, the missionary Roland Allen wrote a book whose title, Voluntary Clergy, is, quite out of context, my favourite definition of improvising musicians. They are in some sense self-ordained to bring us a message which we then carry forward into our daily lives. It is a message, and you will hear it sounding firmly through the various pieces that make up The Human Factor, that tells us much about how we might live together: sharing, giving way, simple giving, lifting up, helping ... above all, listening.

It has been Ensemble5's practice in recent years to invite a guest to perform at the group's monthly shows. In the spring of 2022, at a moment when the world was still waking up from the dark winter of covid - which also had its unavoidable biblical parallels - Geisser, Fridolin Blumer, Robert Morgenthaler and Reto Staub asked vibist Christopher Dell to join them in performance. So successful was the meeting that recording was convened in the autumn and the music you are hearing ensued.

If titles mean anything, then we might take a highlighter to "Rebirth of the singular" and above all, "The human factor". These extraordinary pieces, which have soundtracked my recent days in so many moods and answering so many needs they have almost acquired personality, are very much about the relationship between individuals and collective identities. It's a subject on which we are deeply conflicted. We admire the individual, even the idiosyncratic, but we also admire ensemble playing (and acting), or the moment when a choir completes the final cadence of a line in perfect synchronisation; it's possible to be moved by such a thing and still appalled by the sight of drilled formation marching.

The first Apostles lived their lives with the heavy tramp of Roman legions on the roads they had built. Jazz emerged and lived through an era of nearly triumphant totalitarianism. Music, and especially jazz, didn't just offer an alternative in the sense of a diametric opposite. Instead, it dramatized the eternal opposition between individuality and collectivism, between "within" and "against" (as Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin both said).

All those years ago, working in China where the Western sense of individualism didn't seem to hold, Roland Allen wrote that "In arriving at a decision in a question of doubt, the apostles" - and we can happily substitute here - "were guided solely by their sense of the spirit behind the action, not by any speculations as to consequences which might ensue". This is the great existential challenge of jazz and improvised music as well. Truth is found in actions whose consequences cannot be predicted. We've somewhat softened this into the advertising slogan "The Sound Of Surprise", but even that bland tag makes an important point. To be a musical apostle, or part of a voluntary clergy, you have to move through hostile or indifferent, or just parched, territory without any plan of action other than the spirit of the moment. No Galilean ever walked the roads alone. It wasn't safe. No true improviser ever works entirely on her or his own account, but always in the presence of a shared spirit. That is what you will hear in these wonderful pieces. The specifically Christian analogy can be gently laid to rest. Its sense of shared endeavour is vital, though."-Brian Morton, from the liner notes

Artist Biographies

"Heinz Geisser is a Swiss jazz guitarist, drummer and percussionist, born August 16, 1961 in Zürich, Switzerland."

-Discogs (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"I am a bassist, improviser and interpreter and play music in the area between jazz, improvisation, new music and pop.

I work internationally as a solo artist, with the band Ensemble 5 and as a sideman; an extensive discography on labels such as Leo Records, Hat Hut, Unit Records and TCB documents this work.

My music is inspired by everyday life and I look for illiteral or musical answers to the questions: What are we and what depths of passion, feeling, perception and thought can we reach?

My goal is to play clearly, concretely and directly. Without intention and in unconditional sincerity towards reality, in order to get closer to the point at which what is hidden behind concepts, ideologies, styles or common listening expectations becomes audible.

In order to develop a personal and new music/musical language, I research the musical tradition, current musical trends, groove/time, sound and the way the bass is played in relation to this.

At the age of eight I started playing the cello and discovered chamber music, and at the age of 15 I switched to the double bass and jazz. From 2003 to 2008 I studied at the Basel University of Music, Jazz Department, and since 2008 I have been working as a freelance bassist, stylistically independent."

-Fridolin Blumer Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Reto Staub is born in 1979 in Herisau in Switzerland. He studies piano with Tomasz Herbut at the Bern University of the arts, and takes part to chambermusic-classes with Reinbert de Leuw, Maurizio Kagel and Ensemble Modern. He follows theater-music courses with Georges Aperghis and Françoise Rivalland.

In 2006-2007, he obtains a scholarship at the International Ensemble Modern Academy in Frankfurt. In this period, he collaborates also with Verena Bosshart, Pierre Sublet, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Peter Donohoe.

Reto Staub is member of Ensemble Nikel and Ensemble Linea (since 2007), and peforms also with Trio Präsenz, Ulrike Dorner, and with Ensemble Modern in Germany. He works as pianist for "hermesdance", a dance group. He also plays free improvised music with the band "Humour's Humidity", and teaches at the Music Academy in Baden (Switzerland)."

-Ensemble Linea (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Robert Morgenthaler, Trombone studied at the Zurich Conservatory and at the Swiss Jazz School. Since 1979 he has been a lecturer at the HKB University of the Arts in Bern. Worldwide activities as a trombonist and composer. Tours in Europe, Africa, USA, South America, Asia and Russia. Various radio, TV and CD productions."

-Robert Morgenthaler Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

"Prof. Dr. habil. Christopher Dell works as musician, theoretician and composer and in Berlin. Dell studied Philosophy, Music and Composition and holds a PhD in Organisation Psychology and a habilitation in cultural studies. Since 2000 Dell is head of the Institute for Improvisation Technology (ifit), Berlin. He currently holds a position as Professor for Urban Design Theory at the HafenCity University Hamburg. His teachings in Urban Desing Theory also include a.o. the University of Fine Arts Berlin, the Technical University Munich, Architectural Association London, University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg and the Fine Arts Academy Arnhem. His Monographies include: "Prinzip Improvisation", Köln 2002, "Improvisations on Urbanity" Rotterdam 2009, "Tacit Urbanism", Rotterdam 2009, "Replaycity", Berlin 2011, "Die improvisierende Organisation", Bielefeld 2012, "Ware:Wohnen!", Berlin 2013 und "Das Urbane", Berin 2014.

According to the "Reclam Jazzlexikon" Dell is one of Europe's leading vibraphonists. He has recorded numerous CD's and toured throughout Europe, Canada, China, USA, Japan, India, Africa and South America. His work as musician was honored with several awards e.g. the Downbeat Allstar Award, the Award of the "Deutsche Schallplattenkritik", Finalist European Jazzcompetition Brussels, Jazzprize of the City of Frankfurt, Scholarship "International Summerclasses for New Music" Darmstadt, the Compositionprize ERTA, the JazzArt-Award - Music of the 21st Century, the Musicprize of the City of Darmstadt, Finalist of the German Jazz Prize and a Grammy-Nomination."

-Christopher Dell Website (

Have a better biography or biography source? Please Contact Us so that we can update this biography.

Track Listing:

1. Prelude 2:02

2. The End Of Predictability 7:09

3. Stakes Are High 5:31

4. Rebirth Of The Singular 7:15

5. Interlude 1:56

6. The Human Factor 7:28

7. All That Jazz 7:12

8. Transcience 5:37

Related Categories of Interest:

Hat Art
Improvised Music
Free Improvisation
Collective Free Improvsation
European Improvisation, Composition and Experimental Forms
Quintet Recordings
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Improvised Music
Recent Releases and Best Sellers

Search for other titles on the label:
ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd.

Recommended & Related Releases:
Other Recommended Releases:
Hendriksen, Alex / Fabian Gisler / Paul Amereller
Lotus Blossom
(ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)
Unabashedly lyrical and focused on jazz tradition, the Swiss trio of Alex Hendriksen on tenor saxophone, Fabian Gisler on double bass and Paul Amereller on drums present an album of standards, including pieces by Tadd Dameron, Billy Strayhorn, Jerome Kern, Thelonious Monk and Benny Golson, warmly interpreted with extraordinary band interplay and individual soloing.
Koglmann, Franz
Near Blue - A Taste of Melancholy
(ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)
Presented in two versions--a stereo mix and a binaural mix for headphones--flugelhorn improviser and composer Franz Koglmann leads his septet of exceptional players through 10 original Koglmann compositions, sophisticated works that show influences from Ellington to Franz Joseph Haydn or Johann Strauss, in pieces influenced by or tipping the hat to modern artists, musicians and writers.
Gallio, Christoph / Dominic Lash / Mark Sanders
Live At Cafe Oto London
(ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)
Joining with two of London's finest free improvisers, Swiss saxophonist Christoph Gallio of DAY & TAXI fame and performing on alto, soprano & c-melody saxophones, meets drummer Mark Sanders and double bassist Dominic Lash at London's Cafe OTO for a remarkable concert of free collective playing in two large works: "Wildlife" in three parts, and "Homelife" in two parts.
Armaroli, Sergio / Evan Parker
(ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)
Recording remotely in a call-and-response, vibraphonist Sergio Armaroli and saxophonist Evan Parker resolved an issue of recording in the same physical space by interleaving recordings of solo improvisations recorded in response to each other's sequential recordings, Armaroli with the 6-part "Two Rooms One Vibraphone" and Parker with the 5-part "Interludes".
Stoffner, Florian / John Butcher / Chris Corsano
(ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)
With incredible skill and nuance, using extended and stunning technique, and through intent listening of nearly telepathic communication, the trio of Florian Stoffner on guitar, John Butcher on tenor & soprano saxophones and Chris Corsano on drums & half clarinet, perform seven subtle and detailed improvisations live at Le Singe, in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland in 2022.
Koch, Hans / Christine Abdelnour
(ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)
Born from a project from the "Jazz in Chur" association where Swiss jazz musicians team up with a musical partner from a country with a different language and cultural region, here between Swiss saxophonist Hans Koch and Lebanese saxophonist Christine Abdelnour, the two recording their half of the duo independently, joined in the studio and split left & right for a stunning and unanticipated collaboration.
CALATO / John Cage
Variations + Four6
(ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)
Calato, the quartet of Javier Areal Vélez, Jorge Espinal, Agustín Genoud and Pablo Verón based in Buenos Aires, formed in 2010 as an improvisation and experimental composition group exploring music notation and graphic scores in convergence with free improvisation, performing on prepared electric guitars, drums, sampler and amplified voice, here taking on two works by John Cage: Variations I-III, and Four6.
Lucaciu, Simon Trio
(ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)
Referencing their influences as Punkt.Vrt.Plastik or the Kris Davis Trio, the uniquely voiced young piano trio of Simon Lucaciu on piano, Florian Muller on double bass and Lukas Heckers on drums formed in 2016 to compose and perform original work, inspired by Christopher Dell's possibilities of differentiation and unusual forms, receiving the Central German Jazz Prize in 2022.
Eichenberger, Markus / Christoph Gallio
Unison Polyphony
(ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)
A seeming contradiction in terms, the unison voices and divergent polyphony that emerges best describes the subtle interactions between these two Swiss reed players--Markus Eichenberger on clarinet and Christoph Gallio (Day & Taxi) on soprano and C-Melody saxophones--their "harmony of coherence" strategies guiding their melodic interlacing and fragmentation.
Fraser, Nick Quartet
If There Were No Opposites
(ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)
First recording in 2012 as a trio with saxophonist Tony Malaby as a guest, 9 years later Toronto drummer Nick Fraser's quartet with Malaby as a permanent member, Rob Clutton on double bass and Andrew Downing on cello show their long collaboration's strength in a set of improvisations plus compositions for Decidedly Jazz Danceworks and the DJD production, Juliet & Romeo.
Jorgensmann / Del / Ramond / Kugel
At the Fields Edge
(Not Two)
Taking its album title and the titles for three compositions from poems by Laura Winter, the German jazz quartet led by clarinetist Theo Jörgensmann with Christopher Dell on vibes, Christian Ramond on double bass and Klaus Kugel on drums present an advanced example of modern creative, chamber-oriented collective free jazz with a stunning level of communication.
Mateen, Sabir / Christopher Dell / Christian Ramond / Klaus Kugel
(577 Records)
NY tenor saxophonist Sabir Mateen joins the German trio of Christopher Dell on vibes, Christian Ramond on double bass, and Klaus Kugel on drums, all memebers of the Theo Jorgensmann Quartet, for a live recording at A-Trane, in Berlin in 2012, finding all three energetically enthusiastic and often driven by Mateen's unique personality in performance.
Von Orelli, Marco
The Unasked Answer
(ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)
A remarkable album of solo trumpet improvisation of incredible and creative technique, performed on trumpet, cornet, piccolo trumpet and slide trumpet, from Swiss trumpeter Marco von Orelli, the album title referencing a work by Charles Ives for offstage string ensemble, woodwind quartet and, most significantly for this album, solo trumpet.
Jorgensmann, Theo Quartet
Clarinetist Theo Jorgensmann's quartet with double bassist Christian Ramond, drummer Klaus Kugel, and vibraphonist Christopher Dell recording in the studio in German, 1999.
Lillinger, Christian's GRUND
Second Reason
(Clean Feed)
Drummer Christian Lillinger continues to adapt his band since his 2009 debut GRUND album, "First Reason", here demonstrating his strong skills as a leader, player, and composer.
Jorgensmann Quartet, Theo
To Ornette - Hybrid Identity

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought:
Davis, Anthony / Kyle Motl / Kjell Nordeson
Vertical Motion [VINYL]
(Astral Spirits)
Bassist Kyle Motl organized this 2018 studio session with pianist Anthony Davis and drummer Kjell Nordeson in San Diego, Nordeson and Motl having worked together for several years, their session with Davis focused on the pianist's literary-influenced compositions, the synergy in their trio playing of energetic and introspective interaction absolutely exemplary.
Nabatov, Simon Quartet feat. Ralph Alessi
Lovely Music
(Clean Feed)
"Lovely" but also free to take some wild asides, Russian-American pianist Simon Nabatov's quintet with trumpeter Ralph Allessi, saxophonist Sebastian Gille, bassist David Helm and drummer Leif Berger pivots around melodic cores from Nabatov's alluring compositions as he explores themes of love, refraining from cloying approaches through sophisticated and often edgy direction for his players.
Leon, David
Bird's Eye
(Pyroclastic Records)
An exotic album of improvised music with a wide focus, founded in saxophonist David Leon's interest in Afrocuban folkloric music, expanded through DoYeon Kim's gayagum, a traditional 12-string Korean zither, and punctuated with the exploratory drumming, percussion and glockenspiel of Lesley Mok; assertively unpredictable and continuously intriguing improv.
Mitchell, Matt
Illimitable [2 CDs]
"100% improvised, one take, no edits" from New York pianist Matt Mitchell's solo album in four extended improvisations of impressive detail and creative direction, eschewing any particular style while crossing many, Mitchell's technical skills making complex passages clear even when he names them as abstruse, an impressive accomplishment and an absorbing album of solo piano improv.
Schmid, Silvan / Tom Wheatley / Eddie Prevost
The Wandering One - High Laver Levitation Volume 2
A live recording of freely improvised improv captured at All Hallows Church in High Laver, Essex in 2023 from the trio of AMM drummer and Matchless label-leader Eddie Prévost, Zürich and Maastricht trumpeter Silvan Shmid, and London double bassist Tom Wheatley of the group Widdershins, heard in three investigative conversations of great creative drive.
Mcphee, Joe / Ken Vandermark
Musings of a Bahamian Son: Poems and Other Words
(Corbett vs. Dempsey)
27 concise poems written and read by saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist Joe McPhee, punctuated by 9 musical interludes between McPhee on soprano sax and Chicago reedist Ken Vandermark on clarinet and bass, fortifying McPhee's captivating words that mix life observations among jazz references to Dolphy, Monk, Brötzmann, Coleman, &c.; a truly embraceable "book" of poetry.
Dorham, Kenny
Round About Midnight At The Cafe Bohemia To Matador - Revisited
(ezz-thetics by Hat Hut Records Ltd)
Revisiting and remastering two essential albums from New York hard bop trumpeter Kenny Dorham, a tremendous musican who died much too young but left a legacy of 20 albums as a leader, here in his 1956 Blue Note album in a sextet that included Bobby Timmons and Kenny Burrell, and his 1963 United Artists Jazz album in a quintet with Jackie McLean, Bobby Timmons, Teddy Smith and JC. Moses.
Adena Quartet ( Kazuhisa Uchihashi / Keisuk Ohta / Shinobu Kawai / Akira Sotoyama)
Adena Quartet
The first album from the Japanese improvising quartet of electric guitarist Kazuhisa Uchihashi (Altered States), cross-media violinist Keisuke Ohta, bassist Shinobu Kawai (Yoshihide Otomo Special Big Band, Akira Sakata) and drummer Akira Sotoyama (Tipographica, Koichi Matsukaze Quartet), in three avant jazz improvisations captured live at Knuttel House in Tokyo.
Yoshida, Ryuichi
Known for his band Blacksheep, along with Gatos Meeting, OKHP, Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo, The Silence, and Missing Link, &c., Japanese baritone saxophonist steps out solo for twelve works — eight improvisations and four compositions — blurring the line between approaches, executed with Yoshida's rich tone, multiphonic accents, and powerful sonic pressure on the big reed.
Douglas, Dave
(Greenleaf Music)
A new book of compositions and four interesting interpretations of Billy Strayhorn songs from trumpeter Dave Douglas' premier of a new quartet with tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis and two members of the post-rock trio Son Lux — guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang — in a lyrically embraceable and sophisticated album dedicated to the gifts of life and music we all share.

The Squid's Ear Magazine

The Squid's Ear Magazine

© 2002-, Squidco LLC