We had recently reviewed the work of bass clarinetist Gebhard Ullmann with Bassx3 (also featuring double bassists Chris Dahlgren and Clayton Thomas) when tackling the superb Transatlantic on this very label. Ullmann’s compositions form the spinal column of this CD, the fourth – obviously – by The Clarinet Trio (Ullmann plus Jürgen Kupke and Michael Thieke, the latter employing alto together with the “regular” version of the instrument). These eleven tracks – set apart by an extremely high level of technical conversancy – touch on several aspects that should attract audiences not necessarily limited to the practitioners of the same craft. Stylistically, the pieces range across a whole host of situations: Balkan influences, sloping swinging, stop-and-go scores where intricate contrapuntal layers are followed by linear developments and vice versa; the opening section of “Catwalk Müntzstrasse” sounds like a jarring parallelism between typewriting machines, its impelling power totally absorbing. The broken meters in the brilliant “Kleine Figuren #1” are contrasted by soloist snippets where the three expose their wide-ranging control and sensibility, whereas the subsequent “News? No News!” made me think of ROVA with clarinets in lieu of saxes. The most estimable quality in this music lies in the players’ ability to involve, despite the lack of concessions and the non-use of easy paths to capture the audience’s favours. The listening experience turns out to be a relaxing one, enriched by the sort of levelheaded, intelligently humored proficiency that separates complete musicians – willing to really communicate – from showing-off puppets.

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