Hans Koller starts this great set of '59 and '60 recordings with a sax strut and a swagger, cool, confident, James Dean-y, and then Roger Guerin has his back, taking a West Side Story Jets vibe to the affair. Even drummer Hartwig Bartz is kinda grinnin', first applying a simple staccato beat, laid back but with an almost smart alecky 'tude before rumbling on the lower traps to emulate a passing street car, maybe a subway. The song is Benny's Blues, and the recording perfectly captures a dance hall / nightclub / juice joint environment, a bit daring while classy, Bohemian but knowing. Martial Solal next tips in pianistics that lay you on the floor, avant-garde like Jarrett would later thrill listeners with while Dewey Redman wailed beside him, and you know without a doubt you're in for an adventurous listen.
Yep, Jazz Haus has once again reached into the goldmine and unearthed a huge chunk that might've been lost to the trolls and elves otherwise. And the democracy factor in Koller's domain is impressive: everyone gets his chops in, no one hogs the spotlight, and the song gets turned and twisted nine ways from Sunday until you suddenly cry out "Oh, goddammit, I don't care how good things are now, no one hits this level any more!!!" That, in fact, is the raison d'etre for Jazz Haus, that re-evocation of what's gone by even as a treasure trove of great new work surfaces. Every one of its releases is the kind of disc you race to the record shop for, can't yank the money out of your wallet fast enough, and then sprint home to toss in the player.
All cuts but two are written by Koller, and the charts are just dazzling. This guy was on fire and wasn't just highly appreciative of what the American whizbangs had going, he wanted to meet 'em on the musical gridiron and kick up a ruckus from goalpost to goalpost. Interestingly, Koller's tone is warm and mellow but his songs themselves kick literal ass, and the band clusters around him like bees to a hive, electric, buzzing, first mannered, then wild, next abstract, then straight ahead. You can tell that each player is zeroing in on Koller's deceptively wide-open personna and mentality, taking the challenge to notch things up, succeeding like wildfire, even when damped down and subtle as when Solal comps behind Hans in Dawborn's Mood. Don't hesitate to grab this goldmine.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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