Ken Vandermark • tenor saxophone, clarinet
photo © André Symann
It is thanks to the initiative of percussionist Martin Blume, that the US-American-German quartet SOUNDBRIDGES had been founded in 2021, in which he is joined by the saxophonist Ken Vandermark, trombonist Matthias Muche and synthesizer player Thomas Lehn.
Its premiere concert took place on September 10th in Dortmund at the Visual Sound Outdoor Festival, followed by appearances at the Ruhr Jazz- and the Peitz-Festivals organized by the label jazzwerkstatt, which released the quartets first CD in September 2022.
SOUNDBRIDGES was recorded on September 24, 2021 as part of the 'Ruhr Jazz Festival' at the Bochum Art Museum. Sharing the stage that evening were four musicians whose paths have crossed several times over the decades: Ken Vandermark, Matthias Muche, Thomas Lehn and Martin Blume. And the fun they are having is audible. They go straight into full swing, as if they had a world to win: Shouts on the saxophone and trombone are amplified by driving rhythms and analog synthesizer sounds.
One free jazz attack follows the next. After four minutes things suddenly quiet down again – the calm after the storm. Signal tones 'from outer space', abruptly interrupted by loud noise and threatening feedbacks, meet tonal fissures and overtones accompanied by the discreet beating on drums, bells and various other objects. It continues like this for the next 50 minutes, constantly fluctuating between the calm and dynamic parts, without ever losing its footing. And then culminates in a loud explosion, which after 35 minutes functions like a sound bridge that keeps the music flowing. A sequel is strongly welcome!
- Holger Pauler
Released September 2022 on German CD label jazzwerkstatt
www.jazzwerkstatt.eu | JW 219 | reviews | press release | CD booklet
1. Aperture (4:47)
2. Aspect Ratio (12:56)
3. The Thirty-Nine Steps (19:20)
4. Arc Shot (11:16)
5. Overlapping Edges (3:28)
Recorded by Christian Heck/Tonart Studio on 24th September 2021 at Ruhrjazz Festival
at Kunstmuseum Bochum. Mixed and mastered by Thomas Lehn. Produced by Ulli Blobel.
Cover artwork by Chris Hinze, cover design by Herbert Weisrock.
liner notes by Holger Pauler:
„Live concerts have become a rarity in times of Corona. For a music form that practically 'lives' from improvisation and interaction, a special magic emanates from concerts: They are an audiovisual experience. On this recording, you can't see the musicians, but you can feel their energy and imagine them playing together and communicating and listening to each other.
Soundbridges was recorded on September 24, 2021 as part of the 'Ruhr Jazz Festival' at the Bochum Art Museum. Sharing the stage that evening were four musicians whose paths have crossed several times over the decades: Ken Vandermark, Matthias Muche, Thomas Lehn and Martin Blume. And the fun they are having is audible. They go straight into full swing, as if they had a world to win: Shouts on the saxophone and trombone are amplified by driving rhythms and analog synthesizer sounds. One free jazz attack follows the next. After four minutes things suddenly quiet down again – the calm after the storm. Signal tones 'from outer space', abruptly interrupted by loud noise and threatening feedbacks, meet tonal fissures and overtones accompanied by the discreet beating on drums, bells and various other objects. It continues like this for the next 50 minutes, constantly fluctuating between the calm and dynamic parts, without ever losing its footing. And then culminates in a loud explosion, which after 35 minutes functions like a sound bridge that's keeping the music flowing.
Although there are few guidelines, the four musicians don't move in a vacuum. They are able to draw on shared experiences from the stage and studio. The present concert also marks the end of a short tour. And as is so often the case with improvised music, the other concerts continue to resonate here: The interplay is intuitive, creating a delicate, yet complex sound structure that is held together by an imaginary band.
The title Soundbridges, by the way, is a reference to a technique known from the cinema. It involves semantic and referential dynamics, as well as the acceleration and superimposition of different scenes – or in the case of the music, different pieces. The titles not only allude to cinematicarchetypes – The Thirty-Nine Steps is an homage to Hitchcock's film of the same name – they also play with the technique: Aperture, Arc Shot or Overlapping Edges. The transitions are correspondingly fluid and there are hardly any breaks. Instead, a simultaneousness is created, even as the next radical turn resounds: The Echo connects the past with the future while leaving listeners space to develop their own (audio) visions. A sequel is strongly welcome!“
Reviews CD SOUNDBRIDGES
Imagine the following scenario: A highly likeable German soccer club, whose team inspires mainly (but not only) by its playing style (but not only), augments themselves for one season with an outstanding international superstar (e.g. Cristiano Ronaldo or Erling Haaland). This is what it looks like when three top musicians of the German improv scene - drummer Martin Blume, who initiated this project, Matthias Muche on trombone and Thomas Lehn on synthesizer - invite Chicago legend Ken Vandermark as their turbo.
What you get is, a whole panopticon of what constitutes free jazz in 2022. Brutal, energetic, expressive outbursts; sounds that get lost like in a giant stalactite cave; moments of silence; a back-and-forth shuffling of tones. But what makes the band’s own sound so distinctive? The obvious and most interesting fact is that the bass in the rhythm section is replaced by an analogue synthesizer, which opens up completely different sonic possibilities. This is immediately evident in the short opener “Aperture“, when the pinpricks of the winds are mirrored by electronic gargle tones, or when Thomas Lehn blurs them with textures as in “Aspect Ration“. Here he sounds like a fierce wind whipping wet flags against a wall. What is more is the fact that the quartet excels in small gestures: The musicians harmonize with delicate ease, build tension without resorting to plain crescendos, slip from one unexpected note to another at the last second, find drama in silence and calm in chaos.
In some, rather quiet moments, this is reminiscent of Pauline Oliveiros’s Deep Listening Band, then again of sounds on a Formula 1 race track or a fairground, especially when Muche and Vandermark exchange wild blows, as at the end of "The Thirty-Nine Steps“.
Again, Soundbridges offers a lot: dynamics, wild free jazz, contemplative phases, sound excursions. Everything flows homogeneously into each other as if there were no dividing lines. Through sound bridges, in the most beautiful sense of the word.
Martin Schray | The Free Jazz Collective
Soundbridges quartet was initiated by German drummer Martin Blume immediately after the Covid-19 lockdowns were lifted and American musicians were able to travel and perform in Europe. Blume invited the Chicagoan reeds hero, with whom he performed before two decades ago; German, Vienna-based analog EMS synth wizard Thomas Lehn, who played with Blume in the Speak Easy quartet with vocal artists Phil Minton and Ute Wassermann and played with Vandermark in his iTi project; and young German trombonist Matthias Muche, who played before with Lehn in the James Choice Orchestra. This quartet did a short tour in Germany and recorded its debut album at the Bochum Art Museum during the Ruhr Jazz Festival in September 2021.
The free improvised music is credited to these experienced and gifted musicians. The unique instrumentation, with no bass, opens new sonic and rhythmic options for this energetic quartet. Vandermark acts instantly as a tireless dynamo, pushing the dense commotion forward all the time, and finds immediate affinity with Muche. Lehn and Blume suggest layered, sometimes alien-sounding, restless but highly nuanced rhythmic patterns that trigger Vandermark and Muche to explore their extended breathing techniques.
It does not take long but the quartet already settles on powerful free jazz mode on «Aspect Ratio» with Vandermark taking the lead role, and later even introducing a lyrical, swinging tone. Lehn plays his vintage synth as a twisted, noisy horn, in a similar way to the way that Christoph Kurzmann plays his lloopp software in Vandermark’s Made to Break quartet. The 19-minute «The Thirty-Nine Steps», a homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film from 1935, captures best this quartet. Vandermark, Muche, Lehn and Blume weave organically, both individually as articulate soloists and as a close unit, a rich narrative, full of surprising and risk-taking but insightful detours that may launch Hitchcock’s protagonists to outer space, without losing its focus and the quartet’s tight dynamics. Vandermark leads also the following «Arc Shot» together with Blume and their muscular tenor sax-drums duet evokes a like-minded synth-trombone duet but soon all four musicians unite for an extraterrestrial free jazz ballad. The title of the last, short piece «Overlapping Edges» tells beautifully how the sharp, opinionated edges of this quartet built strong and massive bridges. Waiting for the next one of this great quartet.
Eyal Hareuveni | salt peanuts
Links / Biographies
Martin Blume www.martinblume.com
Thomas Lehn www.thomaslehn.com
Matthias Muche www.matthiasmuche.com
Ken Vandermark www.kenvandermark.com
March 1 - 11, 2023 – European CD Release Tour
Wed. March 1, Schwerin
Thu. March 2, Berlin
Fri. March 3, Ottensheim/AT
Sat. March 4, – – – OPEN – – –
Sun. March 5, St. Johann i.T./AT @ ArtActs Festival
Mon. March 6, Prague
Tue. March 7, – – – OPEN – – –
Wed. March 8, Dortmund
Thu. March 9, Cologne
Fri. March 10, Schorndorf/DE
Sat. March 11, Bonn
Sun. March 12, Antwerp
Please contact us for booking.
updated on November 16, 2022