Appreciating a combination of voices belonging to the same instrumental species implies the necessity of understanding the respective positions in the contrapuntal tissue. In a way, it’s like sitting at a table during a family reunion, attempting to weigh and mentally judge every sentence coming from relatives not seen for a long time but whose opinion is still esteemed. In the case of clarinetists Jurgen Kupke, Michael Thieke and Gebhard Ullmann we discover lots of meaningful snippets embedded in a joint conversation that never risks to spiral down to futile babbling.

After the first half of the concert, the trio welcomes alto saxophonist Alexey Kruglov on stage. In keeping with the “family” logic, the Russian represents a sort of cordial improver, adding a somewhat disjunctive perspective to already interesting exchanges of opinions. His phrasing does not introduce breakups in the fundamental essence of the collective breathing; on the contrary, by suggesting oblique parallelisms to a well-rehearsed course of action we perceive an enhancement of the “researching factor” right then and there. These are the moments in which knowledgeable musicians can push their intuition beyond what’s expectable, involving the audience in a deeper education by bringing them “inside” the improvised setting in a more literal sense.

In terms of sheer listening pleasure, this record will satisfy those who love no controversy. Emotions are kept in check, but the music is crisp enough to justify the implications of instant creativity. Humor, too, is not lost (see “Animalische Stimmen”). The technical mastery is evidently impressive, especially in view of the four’s ability to keep the virtuosity within the limits of aural appeal without gratuitous skulduggery. This includes segments where the dissonant traits of the interplay would want to take an unsafe control. Finally, Kupke, Thieke, Ullmann and Kruglov show who’s in charge, restoring order with clever exactitude as soon as the juices of a sterile anarchy start boiling too violently.

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