Norbert Stein

Photo of Pata Messengers

Norbert Stein - tenor saxophone
Philip Zoubek - piano
Joscha Oetz - double bass
Etienne Nillesen - prepared snare drum + cymbal

The virtuosity, the interactions and the improvisational art of the Pata Messengers unfold in thrilling Pata compositions. A powerful flow of expressive music.


Venerable German saxophonist, composer Norbert Stein's various ensemble manifestations draw inspiration from the work of 19th century scientist, Dr. Faustroll who developed the 'pata physics' theory, defined as a science centered on "unreal logic." Here, the artist leads a quartet under the moniker "Pata Messengers," which is a semi-free program framed on linear thematic sequences that contain underlying melodic content with spacious intervals and rhythmically complex unison runs.

Certain works spark notions of Ornette Coleman's harmolodic principles as melodies, phrasings and cadences are executed with knotty and soaring lines via forward moving passages. Yet the band also puts the musical transmission in reverse as a means of intimating a different perspective on a core plot. It's a nifty concept that garners additional interest throughout.

Many of these pieces share similar attributes. It's akin to a lengthy suite designed with alternating subplots amid robust improvisational exchanges. For example, on "Diatonic Upanishad," Etienne Nillesen—who solely performs on a prepared snare drum and cymbal—stays on top of the pulse to incorporate a sense of urgency for Stein and pianist Philip Zoubek's swirling currents, refreshed with a playful motif and ascending choruses. However, "What We Are" is a medium-tempo bop anchored by bassist Joscha Oetz's supple support and energized by Stein's brusque attack, sweetened by a touch of vibrato and fluent single note flurries as the band systematically pick up the pace.

"Mellstones" boasts a memorable hook and an uplifting trajectory, as the final piece "Friendship," is an 'amicable' one-minute ballad that finalizes the program on a temperate footnote. Here and throughout, Stein transparently morphs avant-garde inclinations into an uncanny form of conventional wisdom.

Glenn Astarita / All About Jazz

Strong and satisfying

This music has definite structures and once their presence is met the quartet pretty much goes free form with Nillesen playing with and counter to the other members of the group. Stein's growl-ly tenor is very strong and gives a sense of great reserve of power and ideas. Similarly Zoubek's piano acts as a counter foil full of ideas. A strong and satisfying date

Robert D. Rusch, Papatamus, Cadence

Own musical personality

Norbert Stein is a German tenor-saxophonist who has performed throughout Europe and the world including several visits to the U.S. He has a large tone and is equally skilled at caressing melodies and playing very adventurous and expressive solos. He sometimes hints at Archie Shepp and Albert Ayler but always displays his own musical personality.

While Stein sometimes leads the James Choice Orchestra and several other ensembles, We Are features his Pata Messengers, a quartet also including pianist Philip Zoubek, bassist Joscha Oetz and drummer Etienne Nillesen. The group performs nine of its leader's originals.

On this CD, Norbert Stein and his sidemen often introduce a warm folkish melody before engaging in advanced improvising. While playing quite free much of the time, the group does not lose sight of the mood set by the themes and in spots shows its ability to swing in a modern manner. The rhythm section keeps a forward momentum constantly flowing, building upon the past while looking towards the future. Zoubek has several excellent solos while Oetz and Nillesen never let the music merely coast.

With Stein contributing fiery solos, We Are stays consistently passionate.

Scott Yanow, Los Angeles Jazz Scene

Cover CD "Friends & Dragons"Thoughtful music

NORBERT STEIN, who has been recording under the banner of Pata Music (touch music?) since the late 1980s, has released FRIENDS & DRAGONS with a small group he calls Pata Messengers. The program of four Stein compositions gives a solid listen to the sound of Stein's grinding tenor work. The rhythm section, when not soloing, gives solid free-form electric backing. This is thoughtful music ...

Robert D. Rusch, Papatamus, Cadence

pdf IconReviews of "We are" as .pdf download


pdf IconReviews of "Friends & Dragons" as .pdf download

Reviews of "Das Karussell" as .pdf download

In jazz, improvisation flouts the rigidity in conventions, it keeps music exciting. That is the one thing. However, Norbert Stein also finds the compositional aspect important, the prescribed sensitivity, empathy and the obstinacy with which he forms networks for his fellow band members, only to tear them apart again. The tenor saxophonist and band leader shines with a brilliant clarity which does not shy away from harshness, loves the abstract and yet draws from the melodic. Stein wants all or nothing and constantly questions the facets of his abilities. ... he skillfully balances along the fine line between free improvisation and extremely sophisticated formalities...."

Martin Woltersdorf, Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger

Norbert Stein's combinations cultivate urges from avant-garde exegesis and traditional musical language with the means of contemporary ideas.

Klaus Huebner, Jazzpodium

It is the free and tolerance spaces inherent in this music which take the edges and sharpness out of a lot of pieces which can sound shrill. It is Norbert Stein's art of composition which creates thematic frameworks in which his band can do a lot and quite vehemently let themselves go, without doing anything wrong.

Hans-Juergen Linke, Frankfurter Rundschau

An independent musical cosmos in which the strictly composed and freely improvised keep an approximate balance; the topics often seem based on intonations of speech and, with their narrative rhythm, fit ideally into the suite-like character of the compositions.

Piece titles such as "Nondual Action" or "This is You" raise the question as to the composer's take on spirituality. Says Stein: "If one understands spirituality as a conscious occupation with questions regarding the sense and value of existence, the world, humans and, in particular, one's own existence and one's own self-realization in life, then in this definition I see connections to Pata music. Music is one of the arts available to people to capture what is essential, elementary and moving. This is what makes it such an important aspect of human communication. It can transport contents and, in a more or less concealed manner, give a feeling of answers to the questions regarding the WHAT IS. That is what Pata music is about

Martin Schuster, Concerto

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