Perhaps the most appropriate adjective for bassist George Breinschmid is 'irrepressible'. Following a very prominent position in the Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich, then the Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, and finally the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, wherein he toured Europe, America, and Asia to great prestige and a rather handsome rate of pay, the restless young gent said "Screw it!", abjured what he sardonically termed "pre-fabricated music", and jumped into jazz with both heels, a land he's inhabited ever since. Thank God for misfits, and the jazz world's rarely been so well served as in that transition, especially as regards the bass, 'cause this guy's axework is as good as it comes. Catch the finger-tangling intro to Musette with Happy Ending for your first unadorned indication.
Did I say Brein eschewed the classical? Wellllll…not quite, as disc two of this two-fer contains a lot of takes on Kreisler, Verdi, and Bach, but especially Lizst. You'll also find a good deal of the gypsy music that bewitches him in the same way as it had Bartok and many before and since. 2012's Fire (here) was a great intro to this wizard for me, but Double Brein is much more so, and the reason for the uplevelling lies in the time span between, a period of great trial and tribulation for the musician. He never lost his sense of humor during it all, though, as the two covers for this exceedingly well packaged release demonstrate: Disc 1's cover shows him standing hip-deep in a river, scowling with folded arms upon his levitating bass while the dollhouse art piece for CD 2 is like something out of a Keystone Kops sequence, everything in disarray as the contrabassist photo-mannequin howls with inspiration.
Then Irish Wedding in Bucharest interjects a smile-evoking chant-line and weird objurgations in a foreign tongue. I haven't a clue what's being said but it's rib-tickling nonetheless, like something John Cleese would've riffed on in a Python episode, lampooning Germans and Balkanians alike. The players throughout disc 1 are greatly varied and highly skilled, and even more so on disc 2, which starts out in Glassian seriality with Mephistowalzer, one of the Liszt numbers greatly interpreted and brimming with madcap wit, Frantisek Janosza literally a wonder on piano. Yo, proghedz: I'm telling you now that if you dig Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Spike Jones, and and RIO blended with Groucho Marx, you're going to love this cut alone…and many more besides.
In fact, as much as I dig CD 1, CD 2 is a tour de force with no end of killer improv, divertimenti passages, insane virtuosities, and a free-spirited approach that would've delighted Zappa and Mozart alike (Wolfie always dug penning fun stuff for the groundlings). In fact, if ECM had a sense of humor, which it doesn't (and doesn't need to, not with the stratospheric excellences it's displayed since Day One, the best music and music label ever produced by human beings……and Martians too), this is exactly what would be slipped into its New Series as a grinning present for the cognoscenti…IF, that is, Manfred Eicher were a prankster as well (which he isn't; serious guy, that dude). We can dream, though, can't we? If so, then all we need do is slip this disc in the player and the phantasmagoria commences. Trust me, NO ONE is going to surpass the second slab of this extravaganza, and even the best of the best will have a hard enough time trying to equal just the first disc. But you, gentle reader, get to be unhinged by it all merely in the listening. The world may be going to Hell in a handbasket, but we'll have some righteous music as we descend.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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