Pata Messengers

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.

Press reviews on the CD “We are”

Stein transparently morphs avant-garde inclinations into an uncanny form of conventional wisdom.
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

Fluid from freedom to in time
German tenor saxophonist Norbert Stein calls his high-minded yet addictive European jazz quartet the Pata Messengers, after patyaphysics, an “an imaginary realm additional to metaphysics” developed by the Parisian absurdist Alfred Jarry (1873-1907). Fluid from freedom to in time, according to Michael Rusenberg, “Pata music floats in a large area of brackish water … between singable waltz … and complete dissolution of the meter.” Drummer Etienne Nillesen uses only a prepared snare drum and cymbal for a kit and makes it work very well. Philip Zoubek is Stein’s first piano player and rounds out the proceedings, you can hear the difference between this and the other Stein / Pata Music releases in our library.

Hemroid The Leader, KFJC 89.7 FM, Los Altos Hills, California

Putting individual stamp(s) on the classic tenor saxophone-and-rhythm-section formation
Norbert Stein/Pata Messengers We Are PataMusic Pata 24
Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Bobby Kapp Heptagon Leo Records LR 807

Putting individual stamp(s) on the classic tenor saxophone-and-rhythm-section formation are two veteran saxophonists, German Norbert Stein, whose musical associates are all Köln-based and Brazilian Ivo Perelman playing with a trio of New Yorkers. In spite of the almost identical CD length and instrumentation, the eclectic nature of improvised music allows for genuinely autonomous discs, which also expose oblique variants of each saxophonist’s usual work. Stein, often helms meticulously arranged programs of his compositions for larger ensembles, and who has recently been flirting with interpretations of German poetry, lets himself go on We Are, with seven performances which speak to old-time jam sessions as well as Free Music sound exploration. Perelman during the past couple of decade has established himself as one of the bolsters of the uncompromising Free Jazz tradition, However there are points during Heptagon’s six tracks where the melodious concept which is always subtly present in his improvising become more obvious.

Stein’s Pata Messengers here consist of Austrian pianist Philip Zoubek, whose exploratory playing usually takes place alongside the likes of Carl Ludwig Hübsch; bassist Joscha Oetz, who plays with folks like Simon Nabatov; and percussionist Etienne Nillesen, who has also worked with Hübsch and Nabatov. Perelman’s associates include pianist Matthew Shipp and bassist William Parker, some of the most recorded jazzers of our time, whose playing partners range from Evan Parker, Hamid Drake and outwards in every direction; plus drummer Bobby Kapp, a 1960s avant-gardist recently returned to the scene.

Pressurized, buoyant and with a hint of melody, Stein’s unmatched horn explorations dig into the furthest regions of his horn with the same singleness of purpose he brings to orchestral exploration. Sticking to mostly the same tempo and with the same depth of feeling throughout, Zoubek’s animated keyboard forays not only dig out drama on their own, but also add two-handed cohesion in tandem with the tenor saxophone work. Playing only prepared snare drum and cymbal, Nillesen bolsters the rhythm without bravado. Free form and grounded at the same time, many of the tracks follow different patterns. Stein’s harsh blowing and snorting with a Hard Bop edge on “What We Are” for instance networks a swinging interface to include a walking bass line, measured clangs from the drummer and fleet comping from Zoubek. In contrast, “Diatonic Upanishad” is a staccato tenor saxophone showcase, but like a Western climber in the Himalayas, the achievement is made possible by Sherpa-like bolstering from parade-ground-like drumming and locked-in piano chords.

Most arresting are consecutive tracks, “Polarity”, “Be yond!” and “Mellstones”, which could comfortably be a triptych suite by themselves. On the first, the pianist’s key clipping elaborates a near-balladic exposition which seesaws alongside moderato reed slurps. Picking up the tempo, the following tune is freer at first, prodded by popping drum beats, high-frequency piano glissandi and altissimo reed split tomes, only to slip unobtrusively into the more mellow “Mellstones”. Featuring a strummed guitar-like bass solo and subtle harmonies from the pianist which cuddle alongside carefully organized tonal breaths from the saxophonist, the final theme adds up to the perfect suite ending and CD finale.

Expert in rugged syncopated rhythms and chiaroscuro multiphonics, the quartet on Heptagon never mutates sounds and narratives to the extent that a certain musical strategy isn’t clear. One obvious contrast with We Are is the position of the double bass. Oetz’s contributions may be muted by the other Pata Messengers’ sounds. But Parker’s upright pulse throbs throughout Heptagon, not quite upfront, but not ‘way behind either. At times as well, the simpatico Arco slides and elevated timbre expelling from Perelman throughout almost mirror one another. On the other hand, the friction generated by Kapp’s drums is usually conveyed by unobtrusive brush work or uncomplicated tick-tock patterns. That means that a track like “Part 4” is compartmentalized with subtle swing as Shipp’s high frequency patterning takes the form of decorative elaborations, while Perelman’s theme examination is squeezed out with toothpaste tube-like consistency, with only the occasional whines and slurps relating to his usual vibrations. However the track that precedes it features unreconstructed Free Jazz swing with the reed line pin-width narrow and altissimo, prodded by slippery bass string sweeps.

The plateau reached by layering desiccated tones from Perelman on top of galloping kinetics from Shipp and chromatic pushes from the bassist and drummer on “Part 5”, is scaled by a drum solo and leads to a sinewy stride showcase for Shipp on “Part 6”. Instructively, before he starts deconstructing the theme via shrill pitches, backed by spiccato double slides and smacks plus a waft of scattered theme variations, Perelman has exposed a light Paul Desmond-like tone earlier on that track. From that point on, the climatic and final “Part 7” reprises many of the multi-sequenced motifs in miniature as it works up to a crescendo. Kapp click-clacks to hold the beat, Parker thumps out a further theme-shaping beat and Shipp comps rhythmically. All of this sets up some kinetic tongue and lip jujitsu from the saxophonist, which in a thickset of slippery, slurry, and soaring reed bites concludes the program, confirming both its neutral and irregularly configured parts.

Two tenor-saxophone-and-rhythm-section CDs prove with unique and satisfying sounds the reason why this formation has long been considered classic.

Ken Waxman, jazzword

An intensely perceptible wealth unfolds
If the word did not have a connection with a major problem, one could say that Norbert Stein’s music is bipolar. The two poles, which give it an ever-present tension, are a singing, melodic warmth on the one hand and a rugged, overtone-rich hardness on the other. Perhaps the title of the sixth piece “Polarity” is a clue. Anyone who now thinks of Ernst Bloch may be reminded of the dualism of the flows of warmth and cold and, in the title of the new album by Pata Messengers We Are, of the first movements of Bloch’s Tübingen Introduction to Philosophy: “I am. But I do not have myself. So first of all we become.” Bloch is about placing a concept of utopia in the midst of life or – with Norbert Stein – in the midst of music: When will we have each other?

The Pata Messengers work their way through this question as a quartet with strict thrift of the means employed and with an effective, yet liberally conceived regularity. In this band there is a musically incredibly fruitful consensus about what “enough” means and where too much begins: Nobody does too much here, and it is precisely through this that an intensely perceptible wealth unfolds. In the midst of the metrically, tonally and tonal free improvisational hustle and bustle, the melos to which the music is committed always remains present, like a background noise, like an open door on the horizon or like a scent that lent the first piece “Perfume” its title.

Hans-Juergen Linke / Jazzthetik

Pleasurable listening with delightful depth
Free music that conveys an eloquent message is one of the most difficult disciplines, requiring a lot of experience and creativity from the musicians. The saxophonist Norbert Stein and his band “Pata Messengers” demonstrate in their new album how this can be successfully done. Fabulous players bundle a maximum of inspiring musicality here – precisely because they know what they are doing and what the moment demands. And because the Pata Messengers are not just a short-term spontaneous project, but instead have an intensively close-knit band chemistry. In this sense, the album title is also a self-confident statement for a musical sense of togetherness that is brought to life. “We are” – no more and no less! There is a deep trust between Norbert Stein and pianist Philipp Zoubek as well as Joscha Oetz on double bass and Etienne Nillesen on percussion.

Together they are strong on the fine line between consistent formal structuring and maximum free flow of ideas. The pieces are repeatedly distinguished by tone scales, which are intoned by the players in dense unison, often in recurring repetitions. This ensures a stringent basic substance, which sometimes even seems like formal twelve-tone music and gives the music a very clear rhetoric again and again. But a lot of subjective, spontaneous and also deeply lyrical music is repeatedly derived from this consensus. The subjective streams of ideas of the individual players meander into ever new, playful ramifications in order to really blossom there. Almost like a tree that branches out more and more and unfolds much beauty in its detail. When such images and associations arise during listening, experienced musicians have done everything right here. Discipline as the basis of freedom, in order to achieve something really great – it is from such insights that the new album from the Pata Messengers conjures up pleasurable listening with delightful depth.

Stefan Pieper /

The album oscillates between beautiful, composed themes and spaces of absolute freedom … as a listener you are simply carried away.

Xavier Plus / Concerto

Intensity, tempo, density and expression … wonderful composed melodies … and freedom …

Tobias Boecker / Jazzpodium

… the striving for a higher musical goal, for the opening of unknown, expressive spaces. Quasi a philosophical approach with which the saxophonist has brought nine dynamic compositions to paper. Inspired, the four musicians play with contrasts, place passages played in unison next to free forms, layer sounds and structures on top of each other. Every note, every pause is important. Sometimes Norbert Stein … sounds like the chain of associations of a Sonny Rollin, sometimes tender and anarchic like Archie Shepp. Harsh tonal language, brittle beauty, great work.

Reinhard Koechl / Jazzthing

… whether free or prescribed, the music from the Pata Messengers is transparent. The quartet is obviously not interested in using crazy capers to turn something simple into something complex. Rather the four musicians play the compelling complexity of a supposedly manageable and familiar field.

Christof Thurnherr / Jazz´n´More

… a lot of free playing culture, contemporary compositions, a profound love of melody and the unconditional will not to be defined. Life is music and experiment.

Ralf Dombrowski / stereoplay

… varied and always full of surprises … a musical pleasure.

Klaus Muempfer / jazzPages

It’s all happening here!

Michael Ruesenberg / Jazz City

Press reviews on the CD “Friends & dragons”

Friends and dragons are not existences from two different worlds, but only two manners of existence of the same being, two sides of the same coin. When it comes to ambivalences and ambiguities, Norbert Stein is in his element, and his current quartet is blessed with dual characters.

The music is sometimes tenderly friendly and lovingly melodic, then it switches and becomes expressive and harsh, and usually it doesn’t even have to switch in-between, it just has to develop. It is always characterized by intensive attention to the delicate design of the smallest details. The way in which Norbert Stein himself works on the tenor saxophone with his tone formation, with overtones, subtones, vibrato, multiphonics and fading out and overblowing provides even the roughest passages with a calm background and vice versa.

The sound worlds Nicola Hein has stored in his guitar are also astonishing. And the melodic motifs that Stein and Hein play in unison are of an undeniable intensity, which is driven to extremes by the precise presence of the rhythmists Joscha Oetz and Etienne Nillesen.

Friends & Dragons contains four pieces which together unfold a microcosm and do not let a tone, twist, or sound too little or too many out into the world. And the piece entitled “Information from the Birds” is apparently dedicated to the phylogenetic history of birds, who are the closest relatives the dinosaurs have left on our planet. It’s a pity that the CD is already over after four tracks. On the other hand: Could there really have been any more to say?

Hans-Jürgen Linke, Jazzthetik

Deep music that draws its strength from contrasts

It was just half a year ago that we first introduced Norbert Stein’s Rilke project and now comes another CD from the active Cologne saxophonist and his quartet − albeit a very short one lasting just 20 minutes. As always, it is profound music, which draws its strength from contrasts and becomes particularly gripping when the band layers sounds and structures on top of each other, so that you don’t even know where to start listening. The themes seem to be derived from intonations, the tonal language is harsh and full of brittle beauty.

Martin Schuster, Concerto

High level of interactive attention, strong individual statements and organically breathing rhythms

No compromises. That which Cologne saxophonist Norbert Stein has pressed onto his most recent EP with his Pata Messengers project, which lasts almost 20 minutes, offers material for more. Even if you don’t want to deal with the absurdistic (not absurd!) considerations of pataphysics, you won’t be able to escape the fascination of the incredibly dense, extremely virtuoso folds of “Friends & Dragons”.

Indeed, a powerful flow of expressive music awaits the inclined listener. Based on fine, basically calmly flowing themes, Norbert Stein, ts, Nicola Hein, e-g, Joscha Oetz, b, and Etienne Nillesen, prepared snare and cymbal, offer a sometimes rapidly improvised ride through their idiosyncratic musical universe. This is characterized by a high level of interactive attention, strong individual statements and organically breathing rhythms of tempo and intensity: “Giant Things to Get Home”.

Tobias Böcker, Jazzpodium

Improvisational power

Norbert Stein has been an established figure in the German jazz scene for decades. With his Pata instrumentations, the tenor saxophonist has created his own unique sound universe. “Friends & Dragons” is his latest work. The classical quartet line-up with guitar works its way through suspenseful and exciting improvisations, sometimes in the collective, sometimes as accompaniment. The changes between unison passages played rubato in tempo and completely free sections are beautiful, whereby Norbert Stein seems to have a preference for the combination with double bass. Tenor saxophone and bass embrace each other in the themes, ensnare each other in the melodies before splitting into soloist and accompanist.

Norbert Stein presents his compositions with a great tone. I find “Giant Things to Get Home” particularly exciting with its catchy melody and round groove. The Pata Messengers have compressed their improvisational power and left only the essence. Every note, every sound has its meaning. It is logical and consistent, but also somewhat of a shame that the CD is more of an EP and, with its four tracks, is already over after 20 minutes.

Angela Ballhorn, Jazz´n ´More

Reviews of “We are” as. PDF download

Reviews of “friends & dragons” as .pdf download

Reviews of “Das Karussell” as .pdf download

Press feedback on pata music

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