Axel Dörner - sind



I received this disc two or three months ago, listened to it twice and put it aside. I found it almost entirely opaque. I didn’t care for it but, more to the point couldn’t think of anything worthwhile to say about it, positive or negative. It was just kind of there. Dörner provides 22 tracks totaling a bit over an hour and ranging from nine seconds to about five ½ minutes in length but other than their duration, I found little to differentiate them (though a few are close to silent and there’s certainly an amount of dynamic and textural contrast) and they passed in something of a gray blur. Criticism seemed futile. I got to thinking about a series of paintings by Gerhard Richter, those in his “colour chart” series, like this one:


Though I admire Richter greatly, these have generally stuck in my craw, especially the ones with just a handful of flat swatches. I give him credit that he’s likely up to something but I can’t quite piece together what that something is, more shame to me, I imagine (though I should say, they look much lovelier when infused with the luminosity afforded by a computer screen than in the flesh). I’ve always been less than interested in recordings that string together catalogs of effects as well, “pinning them on the wall” as if to say, “I can do this and this and this.” Although I hardly think that was Dörner’s intention here, I couldn’t quite shake the fact that that was the effect it was having on me, simply a string of more or less brief episodes evincing little reason to have been gathered together.

I took it out again recently and set my CD player on random. There are no instructions to do so but it seemed like a reasonable approach. I’m not sure it made any difference but what did somewhat alter my perception involved not listening so hard, giving up trying to ferret meaning out of the disc and just letting it sputter, hiss, gurgle and leak in the background like some recalcitrant radiator. It was almost OK then, though a sense of purposive action seeped through no matter how I tried to relegate it to background status, making for an uneasy tension. “Uneasy tension” may often be a good thing but, as yet, I haven’t been entirely persuaded of its ultimate value with regard to “sind”.

So there are my caveats. Others, of course, may encounter no such difficulties.


Posted by Brian Olewnick on October 2, 2007 5:37 PM

It's a tough one to crack, this, for sure. I'm still hammering away at it.
Anyone else out there feel that there's little more to say on a solo trumpet album?

Posted by: Dan Warburton at October 2, 2007 10:09 PM

I hear where you are coming from Dan, but Birgit Ulher and Peter Evans made solo trumpet albums that don't leave you with that feeling with in the last year or so. I would also mention Nate Wooley's fantastic "Wrong Shape to be a Storyteller" but that goes beyond solo trumpet.

I brought this up on IHM: Many of the EAI musicians who also do other forms of improvised music, like Axel seem to have different personas for each situation.
I have yet to hear this, but it sounds like he may be putting unnecessary limts on himself, and broader scope of his own existing music might be a good next move.
Obviously, he is one of the greatest trumpet players alive.

One of the many things about Peter Kowald's music that I loved was that even though he often used the same material I could always hear limitless posibilites with that material, even beyond what he did with it.

Posted by: damon Smith at October 3, 2007 8:40 AM

Well, exactly. I was just thinking where you go from Peter's and Birgit's (not to mention earlier solo tp outings of note by Greg Kelley, Matt Davis, Franz Hautzinger and of course Axel himself).
I've tried Sind three or four times but still haven't connected with it - while the Die Enttauschung on Intakt did it straight away.
I find that the EAI stuff now takes more getting into (maybe it always did and I didn't realise it): the Toshi / Capece CD on Formed left me cold on first listen, now I'm finding it quite intriguing; Rowe's Room, of course; and one that I'm really enjoying very much at the moment, the Rawlings Feeney on Sedimental.
How many listens do you find it takes to crack these babies, Damon (or anyone else)?

Posted by: Dan Warburton at October 3, 2007 9:09 AM

Peter Evans - there's a guy who works!!! Makes me want to pound my chest and scream "America is still NUMBER ONE!!!"

Although the more I listened to his solo the more I realized what a big difference his choice of piccolo trumpet makes (my ears say it's used on most of the album). So in a (bloody-minded) way I wouldn't even put him in this bag. The instrument is different, and not just in terms of range. The timbres are different, the tuning challenges are profound, it's got four valves and it's a lot easier to push wind through.

I haven't heard this solo from Axel but I thought the 2000-era one "trumpet" was just OK. Maybe the way to listen to all of Axel's solo stuff is as part of one grosse UR-solo that spans 10 years or so...

His short solo bit on the Monk 3fer is pretty fucking amazing. Beautiful and straightforward, even while using the most arcane and superrefined techniques. As for his jazz playing in that context, it's mostly OK but not exactly rabble-rousing. Maybe he should listen to less Booker Little and more Lee Morgan.

Posted by: djll at October 3, 2007 9:25 AM

I am liking the recent EAI stuff more than ever. I feel I just recently "got" Toshi, so I was into the his recent stuff right away.
I love the duo wiht Axel. I thought I saw somewhere Abbey didn't like it so well, I'd like to here his thoughts if so.

I am thinking Birgit and Peter Evans have some ideas about what to do next.
I have some intersting gigs coming with Birgit, so I will ask her.
Obviously Djll is working on it, here we have a fantastic trumpet player named Liz Allbee who always sounds great.
She is playing better than ever.
Unfortunately her solo is in a beautiful felt package, so I could not bring myself to open it, I just put it next to my Beuys multiples.

Posted by: damon Smith at October 3, 2007 9:59 AM

Don't forget Ruth Barberan. Scarce visibility, but an excellent trumpet player nevertheless. "Capacidad de Perdida" on CS is still one of the genre's best.

Posted by: Massimo Ricci at October 4, 2007 5:13 AM

Oh, do you think so Max? I found it didn't stand the test of time all that well. Idem the Ezaki solo CDRs on Hibari. The ones I keep returning to are the Greg Kelley Meniscus (which I hated when I first heard it), Axel's Bruit Secret, Tom Djll's pair, and, my favourite I think, Matt Davis's Mute Correspondence, which I think is absolutely magnificent.
On CS I prefer Nate Wooley's disc Damon mentioned above (though there are other sounds on there too) and Birgit's. I prefer Ruth B with Treni Inerti & the Ferran / Costa trio.

Posted by: Dan Warburton at October 4, 2007 8:21 AM

It's difficult with a solo disc not to fall into the trap of a technical demonstration. I haven't heard this one so I can't comment on it directly. I really like the recent duo with Toshi. In addition to both musicians having developed their individual sounds, the interest is really in the interaction b/t the two. I think we are long passed the point in EAI where the sounds alone are going to impress us. Time to make/listen to the music.

I never was able to get into Greg Kelley's Meniscus disc. I tried. For me, if I don't like something after about 3 listens, I probably won't ever like it. There have been plenty of records that I disliked after the first listen, but always by the second or third, I started to come around. Usually, it is just because I am expecting something else, so during the first listen through I don't hear what I am expecting. Second listen, I usually get more of a sense of what the goals of the music are, and by listen #3 can begin to appreciate it. That's just me though.

I don't know about Damon's comments about different musical personas. I'm weary of this concept. One would hope that one would not play exactly the same way in different musical contexts, but this doesn't mean that you have to have completely different musical personalities. There is a tendancy to make exclusive things like notes vs. sounds, fragmentation vs. layering, quiet vs. loud, static vs. active. I'm more interested in make all these inclusive. You might emphasize some more, or place filters/limiters on your musical output, in response to the specific musical context, but I think that is different from having a completely different persona.

Posted by: Jacob Lindsay at October 4, 2007 10:38 AM

What's with all these vanilla dudes? Where's the love for Wadada & Dixon? Raphé Malik's Speakeasy is a decent solo trumpet platter too & its got plenty of choco soul.

Posted by: Jules Winnfield at October 4, 2007 1:59 PM

What's with all these vanilla dudes? Where's the love for Wadada & Dixon? Raphé Malik's Speakeasy is a decent solo trumpet platter too & its got plenty of choco soul.

I love Dixon, but I have to say I didn't care much for his solo recording. Did Wadada release a solo recording? I'm combing my brain but I don't recall seeing anything.

Posted by: Jacob Lindsay at October 4, 2007 3:40 PM

Somebody want to gently inform stranger-in-town Jules why we don't talk about Bill Dixon 'round these parts?

As for Leo Smith... he may be one of the most procedurally opaque musicians alive. Whatever he's doing, it's often - not always - great, and his sound is strong, but I have no idea what he's doing, to be honest. It's like trying to decipher interesting-looking heiroglyphics for which there's no Rosetta Stone. Come to think of it, given some things Wadada has said and published in the past, that may be exactly what he's putting down.

Jacob, he did some solo records back in the 1970s on his own label Kabell which I believe Tzadik has rerelased; also the same label has done at least one or two new solo CDs. I prefer Wadada with others. I really like the one with the Mills electronicists, but they're all my pals, so as Damon will tell anybody within earshot, that doesn't count.

Posted by: djll at October 4, 2007 4:21 PM

Smith's had a handful over the years, though admittedly some incorporate instruments other than trumpet. Off the top of my head:

Creative Music I (Kabell, 1971)
Ahnkreanvention (Kabell, 1979)
Kulture Jazz (ECM, 1995)
Red Sulphur Sky (Tzadik, 2001)

The first two are available as part of the awesome Kabell Years box on Tzadik.

Nice alias, Jules. Is yours the wallet that reads "Bad Mother Fucker"?

Posted by: derek at October 4, 2007 4:28 PM

I have no idea what he's doing, to be honest. It's like trying to decipher interesting-looking heiroglyphics for which there's no Rosetta Stone. Come to think of it, given some things Wadada has said and published in the past, that may be exactly what he's putting down.

I attended the workshop he taught back at Mills in the mid/late 90's. Can't remember the exact year. He taught us the Ankhrasmation (his "hierogpychical" notation). It actually makes sense, but a lot of it is open to interpretation. And yes, Mystery is a big part of it. Some of things he said took a while to figure out. But then I think you're probably better off for taking the time to figure it out yourself, and that's part of the point.

Posted by: Jacob Lindsay at October 4, 2007 5:02 PM

Just want to put in a word for the Leo Smith stuff with Perry Robinson and Bobby Naughton, possibly my favorite stuff of his. All the New Delta Akhri is good value though.

Have never had that much time for the Bill Dixon solo stuff. Mostly it just cracked me up. Having said that, I would still rather listen to him over solo Dorner anyday! Maybe i'm just not 'smart' enough??

Posted by: Son of Beroff at October 4, 2007 5:08 PM

I love Bill Dixon, the last track on "Berlin Abbozi" starts with an amazing solo. Wadada has a solo on Tzadik that is very good, but notes, so it gets into a different area than the other ones mentioned. That Disc Djll mentions is pretty fucking great, I am friends with a lot of those guys, too, so maybe I am not qualified.
I really love Wadada's music and as a person he is just incredible.
I had some extremely lucky formative experiences working with him.

Posted by: damon Smith at October 4, 2007 6:01 PM

Damon, can we ever expect a reply on here where you don't talk about who you know and have worked with?

Posted by: Son of Beroff at October 4, 2007 6:20 PM

Wait, I have to get my 2¢ in about who I know and worked with, namely Leo Smith, in the summer of 1979. I've seen and had to play through his notation -- he wrote piano pieces for me and the other pianists at the workshop -- and somewhere I have a copy of his "Rhythm Notes." Which I guess by now is all just as much ancient history as musicology. I've seen some of his recent scores and talked with the players involved, and their impressions did nothing to persuade me from the impression that Wadada espouses a form of improvisation where you look at a picture while you play, and it doesn't matter a whole lot if what you play isn't an exact sonic analogue of what you see. (Which is obviously not a logical possibility. Puffing a spliff might help, though.)

But it was opaque in '79 and it's opaque now. That's not a criticism, just an observation, he said coyly. I have no problem with mystery -- I tend to layer on the obscurities myself -- although Mystery is another catfish entirely.

Mr. Smith's playing speaks for itself, loud and clear.

BTW "Luminous Axis" is the Tzadik Damon and I rave about.

Posted by: djll at October 4, 2007 7:14 PM

Sorry, the name of the book I mentioned back there is "Rhythm Units." It was a little blue-covered booklet of theory and a series of etudes illustrating the theory. The basic idea was to add an amount of space equal to the value of the rhythm-unit, before and after the r-u. Among these were sprinkled regular notes. Once the etudes got to the complex demisemiquaver-peppered pieces at the end, you were pretty much freely improvising.

Posted by: djll at October 4, 2007 7:33 PM

"Damon, can we ever expect a reply on here where you don't talk about who you know and have worked with?"

- I can take criticism, so go ahead and use your real name, seriously.
I tend to try to post about what I know, often I post about musicians I only listened to, but if I can add first hand information I think it is valuable to the discussion.
Bass players get thrown into all kinds of situations, it has as much to with my playing as location and interest in the music.

In Wadada's case the pleasure was certianly all mine, he worked with me when I could barely play, so in this case that was point.
He is great man, and it goes way beyond the trumpet.
If I do have anything going on now, it is thanks to people like him.

Posted by: damon Smith at October 4, 2007 8:37 PM

"I've seen some of his recent scores and talked with the players involved, and their impressions did nothing to persuade me from the impression that Wadada espouses a form of improvisation where you look at a picture while you play, and it doesn't matter a whole lot if what you play isn't an exact sonic analogue of what you see."

I think there is more to it then that. It's not just looking at a picture. The symbols actually have meaning, but that meaning is generally relative and/or open to interpretation. Part of the point is to figure out your own relationship to the symbols. My experience with his music was certainly not just "look at a pretty picture and play whatever you want".

Posted by: Jacob Lindsay at October 5, 2007 10:23 AM

I am not friend with or have ever played with any of these people. However, here's my two cents:

Ruth B solo on CS- I love this album. I think it works better than Axel's Bruit Secret recording. I will add that I own sind, and I like him in shorter pieces...He seems to lose focus around the 20 minute mark on longer stuff.

Greg Kelley- for my money, this guy is where it's at. His work on "I don't want to l,ive forever" and the meniscus recording have solidified this for me. After hearing him with Bhob R. in Nmperign, I don't think there is a trumpet player out there that stretches like he does. If you haven't, check out Nmperign's recording on seven the Music Lover's Field Companion from a couple of years ago.

Bill Dixon- "Berlin Abozzi"- my favorite of his...followed closely by the track, "Jerusalum" on the Odyssey box.

How about Kondo's Tzadik? It is a different sort of thing altogether. But, I like it.

Posted by: Jason at October 6, 2007 9:19 AM

With all this trumpet talk, I'll mention the great Choi Sun Bae. He's woefully underrecorded (his solo, Freedom is hard to find and not very representative of his playing), but this is about to change.

He has a new solo disc out soon and a trio with Alfred Harth and Harada Yoriuki soon. I'm hearing him tonight with Harth, Harada, Henry Grimes, Louis Moholo, and Tristan Honsiger.

Posted by: Joe Foster at October 6, 2007 8:35 PM

Wait, how could I forget Sabine Ercklentz's CD on L'Innomable? I'm getting older by the minute...

Posted by: Massimo Ricci at October 7, 2007 4:59 AM

I finally heard this. I really like the music, some of the silences got on my nerves, some of them just felt obligatory and not musical.
Other than that it is great record with a lot of variety and beautiful sounds.

Posted by: Damon Smith at October 12, 2007 7:16 PM

Hmm to me the silences really make this disc Damon.

I returned to this CD recently after reading Brian's comments, and the Richter analogy is very good, though that painting above tends to suggest that all the tracks are the same size (length) and they are all evenly spaced apart. Much of the charm of the disc comes from the irregular spacing, the placement of extended silences to either increase or decrease the effect that juxtaposing the similar but different tracks have on each other.

I've been looking for a painting that better reflected the music for me but to no avail. I think that perhaps if you lined up a series of differently sized Barnett Newman works along a wall, paying attention to irregular spacing between them you would come close.

Posted by: Richard Pinnell at October 13, 2007 3:28 AM

I'll give it another listen with that in mind. I love Newman, I saw beautiful thin zip painting in Chicago last weekend, holding it's own next to two incredible Twombly canvases.

Posted by: Damon Smith at October 13, 2007 7:07 PM

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