NORBERT STEIN PATA, HORNS & DRUMS
"Silent Sitting Bulls"
German saxophonist Norbert Stein's hefty discography surrounds French journalist Alfred Jarry's pseudoscience of pataphysics amid many existential relations of art, life and human imagination. With his various Pata-based ensembles, Stein's music intimates comprehensive manipulations of jazz and world music. Organic, yet equipped with brute force tactics, the saxophonist's compositions boats a native stylistic component, hugely evident on Silent Sitting Bulls.
The respective band members play a vital role in the rhythmic factor and they incorporate a curiously interesting poise that involves world beat pulses intertwined with linear and cyclical unison phrasings. Stein also affords the musicians plenty of room to expand and refresh a given theme. They skirt the free-zone as well, while often venturing into kaleidoscopic patterns, yet the differentiator with Stein's music lies within his broad scope of odd-metered developments and reengineering processes. And his unison lines with flutist Michael Heupel works quite well, since Stein's beefy and fluidly exercised tonalities are sublimed by the former's whispery notes.
The quartet continually offsets the program with temperate deviations and harmonious groove intervals, to complement the rough and tumble like expedition. Intricately arranged but loose and powerful, Stein also abides by an extreme depiction of peaks and valleys. Moreover, Nicolao Valiensi's euphonium work lays out a rather soft bottom end in concert with drummer Christoph Haberer's polyrhythmic cadences. Stein incorporates numerous checks and balances into the grand equation. Silent Sitting Bulls is a fascinating endeavor, and an album that should not go unnoticed.
An exceptional level of musical coherence
Silent Sitting Bulls is the second release by this quartet, and it's clear that the time they've spent together has not been wasted. The outcome is an exceptional level of musical coherence, and it's not stretching a point to put their music alongside that of some of Arthur Blythe's ensembles as a model which, while it shows deep knowledge of the history of improvised music, also appreciates that a lot of its life's blood is generated by unassuming innovation.
So, while there are precedents for improvised music ensembles who take their cues from chamber music, these guys make those precedents sound fresh and invigorated. There's a playful quality to a lot of the music, too. On "Quantum Mechanics," a recurrent ascending figure constitutes one of the elements the group draws upon, before saxophonist Norbert Stein indulges in a vaguely volcanic tenor exposition. The following collective interplay is some distance from, say, Albert Ayler's music in its consideration, but there's still nothing methodical about it: these guys are intent on communication through enticement, as opposed to any candid rhetoric.
This is a point which sheds light on "Miao & Chiao," where the fractious horn unisons have that playful air again, before a theme, not without upbeat traces, lends the music a Township air. Michael Heupel's flute is the most compelling voice amidst the unassuming melee mainly, because his role is largely unpremeditated. Christoph Haberer's drum solo is deft and colorful enough to make even that usually tiresome device listenable, and before the piece is out it becomes clear that this is a group akin to a sponge in terms of the influences it takes in even while it retains its own identity.
One of those might be the work of the Willem Breuker Kollektiv, a sadly missed leader and band for whom the past was something to plunder, as opposed to a place upon which to lay the cold, bloodless hand of reverence. Thus, "Paradise Lost" fizzes with the precedents of European brass bands and antique martial airs, but then confounds expectations with the ease in which it switches to that collective improvisation; one of this band's many strengths. Stein, the composer, is clearly very aware of all of them, hence the reason why this music hangs with such lively coherence.Much to offer
… Silent Sitting Bulls is a component of … tenor saxophonist Stein’s ongoing Pata Music projects that adheres strands of contemporary and World music to a Jazz and Improv base. Studio recorded, the eight pieces were all composed – and likely arranged – by the reedist, who was also a crucial member of the Kölner Saxophon Mafia. Other players are flutist Michael Heupel and Nicolao Valiensi on euphonium, who both had JCO (James Choice Orchestra) connections, plus drummer Christoph Haberer whose background is mainstream Jazz as well as computer-aided percussion performances.
Electronics don’t figure into the music here, which under the firm direction of Stein appears mostly concerned with rhythmic interaction as well as the timbres created when brass and reed tones are initially allowed to soar multi-directionally and then simmer alongside percussion. With the emphasis on percussion and euphonium pedal point, at times the performances resemble those of American alto saxophonist Henry Threadgill, who has experimented with similarly constituted ensembles.
Throughout Stein exposes varied textures and moods with echoes of Andalusian music, bouncy dance-styled texts and the faint leavening of Arabic scales. The last appears when Heupel puts asides his more usual airy and lyrical tones to bray nasally. Fungible lines and multicounterpoint among the horns is also common, along with irregular cymbal pops and drum drags and rebounds plus an overriding low-brass ostinato. Only Stein’s solos, with their worldly vibrating split tones, slice through the harmonies. In general, many of the tunes balance on techniques such as alp-horn-like reverberations from Valiensi or rubato brass asides; first unconnected and parallel and then blended with flute and saxophone lines; as well as cross-ticking percussion rolls and flams that seem almost ceremonial until a more swinging pulse is developed.
“Miao & Chiao” for instance, exhibits all of Pata’s attributes from multidirectional horn timbres to Afro-Cuban styled hollow pops from the percussionist. Again while Stein’s agitato reed-biting and Haberer’s cross-pulsed scattered strokes roughen the collective texture, before mass cacophony signals the finale, a simplified beat and moderato flute trills allow – as with most of the other numbers – a climatic recapping of the head …
Fine Euro Jazz
… If you are only staring at the titles on Silent Sitting Bulls you might think you've got some new age record on your hands. But then I must remind you of the Parisian Alfred Jarry and the absurdity of his pataphysics in the crazy old days of Dada. German reed player Norbert Stein is playing with us and not just for us, with his "Pata Musik." Then the lineup should tip you off. Stein is wailing away on his tenor, but the trio behind him has a flute (Michael Heupel) in the piano chair, the bass job is held down by a euphonium (Nicolao Valiensi) and the drummer is playing something called a "wavedrum" (Christoph Haberer, and it sounds often like a set of tom-toms with cymbals). The result, once you catch the wink in Stein's eyes, is modal Jazz with some Middle Eastern overtones, and Silent Sitting Bulls is in the end some fine Euro Jazz. If you haven't caught Norbert Stein's Pata before, this is a fine place to start out.
Phillip McNally, ©Cadence Magazine 2010
Reminiscences of cosmopolitan rhythms and dances
The new quartet reveals an unusual, very lovely range of sounds ... it stimulates the imagination in such a honey sweet and melodic way that one can only sigh, thinking back to some lost paradise...
Rigobert Dittmann, Bad Alchemy
A journey across borders, filled with surprises
The pieces span the spectrum between street fairs and street parades full of gags to a club of experienced listeners who enjoy music.
Werner Stiefele, stereoplay
A multifaceted and above all entertaining melange of avant garde and tradition
Whether pan-tonal or in classic harmony, archaic or artistic, the music is always bursting with sensuality and full of enigmatic humor.
Klaus Muempfer, Jazzpages.com
Essential, elemental and moving
Stylistically somewhere between jazz, world music and new music, the four protagonists in PATA, HORNS & DRUMS interweave their voices in sophisticated riffs, short group improvisations and melodies with a touch of something archaic. "Silent Sitting Bulls" is full of surprising twists...
Martin Schuster, Concerto
An individual statement of immense power
The wind players, tonally quite far apart from one another, explore a fascinating mixture... which is added to by the sharp compositions of the band leader that—between circus-like fanfares, African playfulness and nods towards world music and jazz traditions—allow wide leeway for the other musicians to freely contribute.
Rolf Thomas, Jazzthing
New and exciting
The four musicians... step with a tremendous sense of ease and identity into the opportunities that dealing with musical traditions and languages with a free hand has to offer today.
The signs point to wind music, and indeed there is something clearly reminiscent of circus, fair and brass band music. The sound of the flute, tenor saxophone and euphonium is so heterogeneous in this Pata quartet, the individual voices so independent, that chamber music hits the mark more closely for the wind players.
Berthold Klostermann, Fono Forum
Shining lights and mavericks
Fostering traditions in the consciousness of the modern era, the intersection of tenuous dissonance in improvisational exchange, here and there a hefty incorporation of Duke Ellington and Charles Ives.
Martin Wolterdorf, Koelner Stadtanzeiger
The inspiration of the exotic and its ramifications
Saxophone player Norbert Stein is a cultural interloper between peoples, their music and attitudes towards life. His new quartet is once again tapping improvisation possibilities...
Wolfgang M. Seemann, Passauer Neue Presse
A concert journey in the earth's countries begins
In their new CD, Norbert Stein and his quartet Pata, Horns & Drums draw new borders in music. All the while music tradition transforms into a colorful picture of the modern era...
Joachim Holzt-Edelhagen, Die digitale Jazz-Zeitung
Enough is always possible in this music
Warmth is a quality of sound, not the notes that are played, and the album "Silent Sitting Bulls" by Norbert Steins quartet Pata Horns & Drums allows the source of that warmth to be identified easily; it's the four musicians themselves, the intensity and particular color of their intonation and articulation.
Hans-Juergen Linke, Frankfurter Rundschau
Imaginary music? Yes please!
The power of imagination in Stein's music is also apparent in his approach towards a contemporary musical language... If this could be the cradle for an imaginary music to develop, the quintessence can only be: Yes, more please.
Klaus Huebner, Jazzthetik
Healing jazz that knows no boundaries
The stories are told with a breezy and fleet-footed air. Sentimental, sometimes sappy melodies are taken and stripped down to their bittersweet bones. The three wind players and the drummer work together to open new realms. It's healing jazz that knows no boundaries. It envelops listeners without smothering them.
Reiner Kobe, Jazz´n´More
A compelling cosmos
It is, once again, a compelling cosmos, a journey that offers constant amazement... An extreme challenge for the ears and senses and a coquettish swing in the picturesquely beautiful hammock of musical tradition in one. Genuine Stein!
Michael Scheiner, Jazzzeitung
Exciting music whose direct impact never fades away
In the transparent polyphonic quartet roster of tenor sax, flute, euphonium and drums, Norbert Stein, Michael Heupel, Nicolao Valiensi and Christoph Haberer develop a creative interplay of intuition and rhythmical fervor that shifts between awakening amusement and amazement, and even contemplativeness, in its listeners.
Wolfgang M. Seemann, Passauer Neue Presse
With great humour and detail
Norbert Stein´s "Silent Sitting Bulls" is extraordinarily fun. The tenor saxophonist and Michael Heupel (Flute), Nicolao Valiensi (euphonium) and Christoph Haberer (drums) explore the frontier of micro-tonal composition and improvisation with great humour and detail, all the while the musicians boisterously transcend borders.
Sven Thielmann, hifi & records
A well-tuned team, the four Patas
The music is in perpetual motion, always leading on into singable melodies, also constantly deferring to the individual musicians to unleash themselves, develop their own ideas that are full of creativity, virtuosity and often great emotion... A brilliant segue between popular melodies, swinging sharply like interrupted rhythms, elements of contemporary music and jazz. A very special way to help listeners of current music on their way.
Hans-Juergen von Osterhausen, JazzpodiumFinely crafted
For this new album, ‘pataphysician saxophonist Norbert Stein is backed by a drummer (Christoph Haberer), a flutist (Michael Heupel) and a euphonium player (Nicolao Valiensi). A fun line-up to perform a complex, bouncy, inviting and mischievious repertoire. I’m thinking of Carlo Actis Dato, Jean Derome, but mostly Steve Lacy (and especially in “Hapana Lakini,” whose melody could be a homage to the great master of soprano sax). Another finely crafted (and recorded) project from Mr. Stein.
François Couture, Delíre MusicalIntriguing & inviting sonories
Intriguing & inviting sonorities w/flute & tenor leads. Euphonium (cousin to tuba) bottom & drums. All original compositions by Stein (ts) which hold interest & segues into sections of free improv & back again. Heady, but accessible.
ttintle, WRUV Reviews
Concerto, Westzeit, Jazzzeitung, stereoplay, Jazzthing, Jazzpodium, Frankfurter Rundschau, Jazzthetik, Bad Alchemy, Neue Passauer Presse, Die digitale Jazz-Zeitung, sonic, Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger, Jazzpages, Jazz´n´More, audio & records, Fono Forum
Further reviews as .pdf-download
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