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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.
 

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Personnel:



Heinz Geisser-percussion

Fridolin Blumer-double bass

Reto Staub-piano

Robert Morgenthaler-trombone

Christopher Dell-vibraphone


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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 (https://www.discogs.com/artist/1402248-Heinz-Geisser)
6/10/2024

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 (https://fridolinblumer.com/about)
6/10/2024

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 (https://www.ensemble-linea.com/reto-staub)
6/10/2024

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 (https://robertmorgenthaler.ch/?page_id=16)
6/10/2024

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 (https://www.christopher-dell.de/en/press-media/)
6/10/2024

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
Jazz
Free Improvisation
Collective Free Improvsation
European Improvisation, Composition and Experimental Forms
Quintet Recordings
Staff Picks & Recommended Items
New in Improvised Music
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