Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


by Ian Mann

October 02, 2008


Not so much a musical journey as a roller coaster ride. Ceaselessly inventive and technically brilliant but also very human

This latest release on ACT’s Young German Jazz imprint is an extraordinary album, following in the footsteps of previous releases by Matthias Schriefl, Carsten Daerr and [em}. Each album sounds completely different but they are united by an adventurous spirit and a willingness to break away from the American jazz tradition.

The Brinkmann Trio features an unusual instrumental line up with the leader playing cello, hardly a traditional jazz instrument. He is joined by the brilliant young pianist Oliver Maas and the percussionist Dirk-Peter Kolsch.

On the face it this line up may appear to be limiting but with Maas also utilising electric keyboards and Kolsch deploying an exotic array of percussion and “objects” (children’s toys etc.) in addition to his kit drums their sonic palette is surprisingly wide. Both Kolsch and Brinkmann make use of electronic effects broadening the sound still further. In addition to using the bow Brinkmann also plucks his instrument, providing lines that without prior knowledge you would swear came from a double bass.

The trio cram eighteen pieces onto the album straddling a bewildering mix of styles from neo classical to fusion and all points in between. The mood varies from the solemn to the whimsical. These Germans definitely have a sense of humour. Brinkmann and Maas share the writing credits pretty much equally, with five brief, freely improvised intermezzos providing staging posts between the lengthier compositions.

“Ha!! is not so much a musical journey as a roller coaster ride. The romanticism of the opening “Sirius B” is followed by the deranged waltz “Huhner-Walzer”, all sawing cello and tinkling glockenspiel, and so on.

After the first “Intermezzo” “Klassentreff” finds the group in skewed fusion territory with Maas’ crazed Fender Rhodes sounding positively funky. Kolsch’s toys add to the air of musical mischief.

“Mister Nice” is an essay in atmospheric minimalism, the following “Rapunzel” explores e.s.t. style grooves. The trio never stay in one place for long but instead of this being a distraction it actually helps to maintain the listener’s attention. You never know what they’re going to do next.
The trio are just bursting with ideas but taken as a whole the album is remarkably cohesive.

“Miss Wise” features both electric and acoustic keyboards in a subtle funk/groove based manner.  The mood then becomes more serious with “Kleinod” and “September”, the latter the longest cut on the album. Both are dark, sombre pieces that unfold slowly and dramatically, owing something perhaps to the compositional style of Philip Glass. “September” features remarkable bowing from Brinkmann, technically brilliant but also bringing out the inherent melancholy of the cello. Both these pieces are hauntingly effective.

The improvised “Mister Nice Two” leads into “Live In Hamburg” (a nod to e.s.t. perhaps) which sees the trio upping the energy levels again courtesy of a warped ska like groove and Maas soloing joyously on both electric and acoustic keyboards.

“Sputnik 68” is suitably atmospheric and spacey and collapses into “Intermezzo No.5”, itself a reprise of “Huhner Walzer”.

The Brinkmann Trio are actively into subversion so it should come as no surprise that “Introduktion” appears as the penultimate track. Stark and dramatic it recalls both the spaciness of “Sputnik” and the brooding intensity of “September” , Brinkmann appearing both with and without the bow.

“Song” closes the album on a gently elegiac note including a sonorous pizzicato passage from Brinkmann.

“Ha!” is a remarkable album, ceaselessly inventive and played with enormous technical skill but also very human and very entertaining.. The trio pace themselves superbly and this carefully programmed album should ideally be listened to in a single sitting.

The swings in mood and texture from the dark and sombre to the whimsical and childlike remind me of Polar Bear. The sheer inventiveness of Kolsch’s drumming is on a par with Sebastian Rochford and Kolsch’s use of toys has obvious parallels with Leafcutter John. The two bands may be similar in spirit but the Brinkmann Trio with their unusual instrumentation are wholly unique. For all their quirkiness the pure musicality and inventiveness on display here ensures that the album will bear repeated listening-and I’d love to see them tackling this stuff live.

blog comments powered by Disqus