The Squid's Ear Magazine

Gratkowski Quartet, Frank: Spectral Reflections (Leo Records)

A live recording in 2001 at Germany's The Loft from saxophonist & clarinetist Frank Gratkowski and his quartet with Wolter Wierbos on trombone, Dieter Manderscheid on bass, and Gerry Hemingway on drums, a superb example of the saxophonist's stature in the free improvising community, and the outstanding players he associates with.

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Wolter Wierbos-trombone

Dieter Manderscheid-bass

Gerry Hemingway-drums

Frank Gratkowski-alto sax, clarinet

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UPC: 5024792037421

Label: Leo Records
Catalog ID: LEOR374.2
Squidco Product Code: 22463

Format: CD
Condition: New
Released: 2003
Country: UK
Packaging: Jewel Case
Recorded at the LOFT, in Cologne, Germany, on November 7th, 2001, by Wolfgang Stach.

Descriptions, Reviews, &c.

"Spectral Reflections" was recorded live in Cologne's LOFT. All compositions are by Frank Gratkowski written especially for the members of his quartet. This is powerful, no-nonsense music played by no-nonsense musicians."-Leo

"It continues to amaze me that Frank Gratkowski isn't recognized as a giant of improvised music. For going on two decades, the reed player and composer has been honing his skills as part of the vibrant improvisational music scene in Koln, Germany, where this disc was recorded on November 7, 2001. Active with fellow Germans like Georg Graewe, with whom Gratkowski has recorded often and in various configurations, he is also widely known to fellow musicians internationally (though criminally undersung by press and audiences alike). He's worked in Klaus Konig's big band, in Bill Dixon's Enchanted Messenger Orchestra, with Fred van Hove, John Lindberg, Gerry Hemingway, and many others. Indeed, Hemingway has been an integral part of Gratkowski's small-group composing and playing in recent years. The phenomenal drummer was on the trio recording Flume Factor and on the quartet Kollaps, featuring the same band that reconvenes for this date: Gratkowski on alto sax, clarinet, and contrabass clarinet, Wolter Wierbos on trombone, Dieter Manderscheid on bass, and Hemingway on drums.

Anyone familiar with these players knows that they're all monsters on their instruments. But rather than simply stand up and blow for an hour ' a strategy which wears ever thinner to these ears ' they set themselves a challenging course of navigating Gratkowski's idiosyncratic compositions (just enough structure to facilitate, not enough to constrain). The evident model here in terms of compositional and instrumental language is Anthony Braxton's great quartet of the mid-1970s (with Dave Holland, Barry Altschul, and either George Lewis or Kenny Wheeler on brass). The heart of the music is in the incredible synergy between the horns ' where Gratkowski's serpentine reed playing, particularly his round-tone and limber clarinets, sound especially good with Wierbos' raucous 'bone expressions. But make no mistake: Hemingway and Manderscheid are equals in every sense, and in no way play merely support roles. For example, "Loom" opens with rhythmic cues (similar to the pulse tracks which are integral to much of Braxton's quartet music) expertly brought off by bass and drums, while on the impressionistic "Blonk" the two generate textures which slither between breath sounds, slap-tongues, and other horn emanations. Equally moody are the album's two dirge-like pieces, "Fenster" (which also boasts some tight harmonies) and the long closing title track (an excellent example of restraint and focus). But perhaps nowhere does this quartet's synthesis come together so well as on "Homage." Its wonderfully open-chord progression and lines, framed articulately by bass ' drums and trombone contribute a wry pulse track commentary against superb clarinet (what range, what tone) ' set the stage for a slow intensification, until the piece erupts into a fractious freebop. It's marvelous stuff, the high point of a delightful record. Seek this out, along with Gratkowski's other recordings."-Jason Bivins, Dusted Reviews

Artist Biographies

"Wolter Wierbos (born 1 September 1957 in Holten, Overijssel) is a Dutch jazz trombonist.

Wierbos has played throughout Europe, Canada, USA and Asia. Wierbos has many awards to his name, including the Podiumprijs for Jazz and Improvised music and the most important Dutch jazz award, the VPRO/Boy Edgar Award in 1995.

Since 1979 he has played with numerous music ensembles: Cumulus (with Ab Baars and Harry de Wit), JC Tans & Rockets, Theo Loevendie Quintet, Guus Janssen Septet, Loos (Peter van Bergen), Maarten Altena Ensemble and Podiumtrio. He led his own band, Celebration of Difference, and has been involved in theater, dance, television and film projects. He has been invited to play with The Ex, Sonic Youth, Gruppo Sportivo and the Nieuw Ensemble (led by Ed Spanjaard).

He has also played with Henry Threadgill, The Berlin Contemporary Jazz Orchestra (led by Alexander von Schlippenbach), the European Big Band (led by Cecil Taylor), the John Carter Project, Mingus Big Band (Epitaph, directed by Gunther Schuller). He is currently active with Misha Mengelberg's Instant Composers Pool (Down Beat Poll winner 2002, Talent Deserving Wider Recognition), Gerry Hemingway Quintet, Franky Douglas' Sunchild, Bik Bent Braam, Albrecht Maurer Trio Works, Nocando, Carl Ludwig Hübsch's Longrun Development of the Universe, Frank Gratkowski Quartet, Available Jelly and Sean Bergin's MOB.

Wierbos also maintains a solo career. He has a running project under the name Wollo's World, where he brings together different artistic combinations, ranging from duos with tap-dancer Marije Nie and bassist Wilbert de Joode to a quartet with Misha Mengelberg, Mats Gustafsson and Wilbert de Joode.

Wolter Wierbos can be heard on more than 100 CDs and LPs. He has released two solo CDs: X Caliber (ICP 032, 1995), "a round-trip tour of his horn, from buzzing mute mutations, grizzly blurts and purring multiphonics to radiant melodies", and Wierbos (DATA 824), a reissue of his 1982 solo LP with an additional track."

-Wikipedia (

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"Dieter Manderscheid (born March 31, 1956 in Trier ) is a German jazz bassist.

Manderscheid studied music in Saarbrücken and Cologne from 1977 to 1984. In addition to the solo work, Manderscheid performed in various fixed formations: in the duo with Frank Gratkowski, in the quartet with Frank Gratkowski, Wolter Wierbos and Gerry Hemingway, in the quartet with Martin Blume, Johannes Bauer and Luc Houtkamp, in a duo with Thomas Heberer and the trio Village Zone with Georg Ruby and Christian Thomé and the Syntopia Quartet by Albrecht Maurer. With the James Choice Orchestra, he appeared at the MusikTriennale in Cologne in 2007.

Manderscheid has performed regularly at German and international jazz festivals ( JazzFest Berlin, Deutsches JazzFestival Frankfurt, Tampere Jazz Happening, Jazz Yatra Bombay, JazzFestival Vancouver ) and concert tours through Asia, Africa and the USA, commissioned by the Goethe-Institut. In 1990 he received the prize of the German record critics. He taught at the Musikhochschule Frankfurt am Main from 1991 to 1998 and since 1994 he has been a professor for jazz double bass at the Cologne University of Music. He also gives workshops at the Darmstadt holiday courses for new music."

-Wikipedia (translated by Google) (

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"Gerry Hemingway has led a number of quartet and quintets since the mid 1980's. In addition he has been a member of a wide array of long standing collaborative groups including Brew with Reggie Workman and Miya Masaoka, the GRH trio with Georg Graewe and Ernst Reijseger, the WHO trio with Michel Wintsch and Bänz Oester, as well as numerous duo projects with Thomas Lehn, John Butcher, Ellery Eskelin, Marilyn Crispell, and others. Mr. Hemingway is a Guggenheim fellow and has received numerous commissions for chamber and orchestral works as well as being noted for his innovative and multifaceted work as a solo performer which began in 1974. He was a member of the Anthony Braxton Quartet between 1983 and 1994 and is also well known for his collaborations with some of the world's most outstanding improvisers and composers including Evan Parker, Cecil Taylor, Mark Dresser, Anthony Davis, Derek Bailey, Leo Smith and many others. He currently lives in Switzerland having joined the faculty of the Hochschule Luzern in 2009."

-Gerry Hemingway Website (

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"Frank Gratkowski, saxophone. Born in Hamburg, 1963.

Started playing the saxophone at 16 and, following a period at the Hamburg Conservatory (Hamburger Musikhochschule), moved in 1985 to study at the Cologne Conservatory of Music with Heiner Wiberny, graduating in 1990.

Further studies with Charlie Mariano, Sal Nistico and Steve Lacy.

Frank Gratkowski has been working as a soloist in various international formations (Grubenklang Orchester, Klaus Koenig Orchester, Musikfabrik NRW, Tony Oxley Celebration Orchestra, Bentje Braam, BikBentBraam, All Ears, Zeitkratzer, WDR Big band, etc.). Since 1990 he has been giving solo performances throughout Europe, Canada and USA. With his first solo program, he was a 1991 prizewinner in the Musik Kreativ contest. The release of the solo CD "Artikulationen" followed the same year and a new one "Artikulationen II" in 2002.

Since 1992 he has been working in a duo with the pianist Georg Graewe (CD "VicissEtudes"). The duo is often extended through the participation of different additional musicians, such as drummer Paul Lovens (CD "Quicksand") and bassist John Lindberg (CD "Arrears").

In 1995 he founded the "Frank Gratkowski Trio" with Dieter Manderscheid (Germany), bass, and Gerry Hemingway (USA), drums, (CDs "Gestalten" and "The Flume Factor" ). In 2000 the trio has been extended to a quartet by Dutch trombonist Wolter Wierbos (CDs "Kollaps", "Spectral Reflections", "Facio" and "Le Vent et la Gorge"). Since 2003 also appearing as a Double Quartet plus Tobias Delius, Herb Robertson, Wilbert DeJoode and Michael Vatcher. In 2005 he got the SWR Jazzprize.

In 1999 the duo with the Italian trombonist Sebastiano Tramontana has been formed and since 2001 Frank Gratkowski has been performing with a trio including Wilbert De Jode (NL) on bass and Achim Kaufmann (D) on piano (CDs "Kwast" and "Unearth"). Since 2006 he's working with the Trio Gratkowski / Brown / Winant (CDs "Wake" and "Vermilion Traces/Donaueschingen 2009"). He is also a co-leader / composer of the Multiple Joy[ce] Orchestra and got a commission to compose for the ensemble Apartment House by "November Music " (Den Bosch NL) and the "Huddersfield Comtemporary Music Fesitival" (England) in 2009. Further actual projects are Fo[u]r Alto, a saxophone ensemble dedicated to microtonal music and "Artikulationen E" a solo program for saxophone with 8 channel live electronic.

Frank Gratkowski played on nearly every German and on numerous international Jazz and contemporary music Festivals including Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago, New York, Seattle, Quebec, Les Mans, Muelhuus, Groeningen, Nickelsdorf, Barcelona, Lithuania, Warsaw, Zagreb, Prague, Bratislava, Sofia, Bucharest, Odessa and Roma, Huddersfield, London.

He has been teaching saxophone and ensembles at the Cologne, Berlin and Arnhem Conservatory of Music and is giving workshops all around the world.

Furthermore he has performed with Robert Dick, Phil Wachsmann, Radu Malfatti, Herb Robertson, Marcio Mattos, Eugenio Colombo, Peter Kowald, Ray Anderson, Michael Moore, Ken Vandermark, Greg Osby, Kenny Wheeler, Louis Sclavis, John Betsch, Jane Ira Bloom, Connie and Hannes Bauer, Xu Fengxia, James Newton, Muhal Richard Abrams, John Lindberg, Michael Formaneck, Ernst Reijseger, Fred van Hove, Theo Jörgensmann, Phil Minton, Peter Brötzmann, Mark Dresser, Mark Feldman, Hamid Drake, Michiel Braam, Han Bennink, Mal Waldron, Misha Mengelberg a.m.o."

-Frank Gratkowski Website (

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Track Listing:

1. Blonk 4:45

2. Homage 13:35

3. Loom 9:49

4. Fenster 6:50

5. Annaherungen III 6:50

6. Spectral Reflections 13:49

Related Categories of Interest:

Improvised Music
European Improvisation and Experimental Forms
Quartet Recordings
Leo Records

Search for other titles on the label:
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