FMP/FREE MUSIC PRODUCTION - An Edition of Improvised Music 1992-2004

OWN 90010

Bert Noglik


Here are two musicians who complement each other perfectly, because both are at home in the border and transition areas between pre-set genres and who, during their exchanges, hit upon musical material of a highly explosive nature. Being equally at home in the fields of composition and improvisation, they know how to interweave both fixed elements and those invented during the actual process of playing in such a way that everything comes together and takes shape in the flow of transition. At the same time, the tendencies towards consolidation are counteracted, the music is opened up within the framework of the chosen models of communication and is freed from the ties to the pre-established and shifted into the free area of improvising.

Their musical language reveals that Friedemann Graef and Achim Goettert have a connection to Jazz, or at least come from the Jazz tradition, without allowing themselves to be limited to its well-known idioms. For this reason precisely, they manage to discover new areas of sound, to surprise themselves as well as the listeners. What is reflected in the biographies of the two musicians is demonstrated also in the duo’s ‘sound’ tracings: preoccupation with New Music and European tradition, with ethnic traditions and contemporary sounds within the broad spectrum, from Jazz to Contemporary Music. Friedemann Graef and Achim Goettert transmute all these experiences into a lively, often boisterous music making process. In front of a background of Jazz, extensions of sound develop while, at the same time – seen from the angle of New Music -, advanced material is freed from the strict terms of order laid down by the composition and put in a non-dogmatic, ‘playful’ context.

Hardly any instrument, hardly any family of instruments would seem more appropriate for such a venture as the saxophone. The dialogue situation allows chamber music transparency and, at the same time, the sound-potential of the instrument opens up a broad field of associations: from ethnic sounds and the expressiveness of Jazz to an unmistakable individuality. Friedemann Graef and Achim Goettert are alike in the sense that they always intuitively manage to find a common denominator; and they are different enough in their attitude towards making music to stimulate each other constantly to producing new ideas.

Playing ‘with’ the saxophone family means, at the same time, playing with an almost infinite number of possible ways of combining them. Within the spectrum from soprano to bass saxophone, the duo uses a multitude of sound constellations full of tension. But what distinguishes all this from a practical study course in the theory and practice of a musical instrument is the lively adaptation of the available potential for expression corresponding to the various compositions or the flow of improvisation from the "pure" sound to multiple voicings, over-blowing techniques, circular breathing and multiphonics.

The two musicians artfully employ the numerous possibilities of the dialogue: question and answer, two-voice playing, unison, freely unfolding lines with simultaneous ostinati, canon techniques, minimalist intertwining, simulation of bass and drum functions, sporadic, regular or syncopated, swing or pulse generating accents with accompanying melody lines. A whole catalogue opens up, moving through all the keys in Achim Goettert's "Zengö 19 Suite". Unmistakably inspired by Afro-american sources, a European mentality is also reflected in this suite at the same time. It may not be accidental that the „Zengö 19 Suite“ by Achim Goettert was conceived during a visit to Pecsvarad in Hungary. The Blues combined with Bartók (not with his musical language, but with his attitude towards using and adapting ethnic material), experiences in the area of Jazz connect up with the knowledge of Contemporary Music, the „well-tempered blues saxophone“ ties up with the „microcosm of improvisation“. The collaboration between Achim Goettert and Friedemann Graef started a year after the creation of „Zengö 19 Suite“, in the middle of 1992. Both could also be heard in extended line-ups, for example with organ player Helmut Walz, trombone player Johannes Bauer and percussion player Günter Sommer, but have developed a continuous and particularly close and co-operative relationship within the saxophone duo. Listening to the titles of Friedemann Graef’s „Sweet Soil Suite“ I feel I am able to detect equally a feeling of Jazz, an experience in improvisation and a closeness to New Music as well as to European Classical Music and to Ancient Music. One of the strong points of the duo is to be able to transpose all this into an organic context and to admit in a playful kind of way to a virtue which has become rare in Contemporary Music: the creation of melody. Added to this that special physical energy of movement coming from Jazz, which remains distinct even when it can hardly be defined anymore. In other words: this saxophone duo swings without that usual finger-snapping servility. And sometimes the two sound like one single instrument, occasionally like a whole orchestra. At the same time they are - focused or multi-dimensional – both singly and collectively: composers, improvisers, interpreters, sound creators.

Friedemann Graef, born 1949, lives in Berlin and has been working as a professional saxophonist in the field of Improvised Music since 1975. He has played with, amongst others, Alexander von Schlippenbach, Peter Kowald, Joe Viera, Ernst-Ludwig Petrowsky, John Tchicai, Karl Berger, Abdullah Ibrahim, Paolo Mura, Trilok Gurtu, Reinhard Flatischler, Pierre Dørge, Harry Beckett, Albrecht Riermeier, Ray Anderson, Nippy Noya and Heiner Goebbels. Aside from his involvement in an ensemble of Ancient Music, as soloist in renowned orchestras and in the Berlin Saxophone Quartet of which he has been a member since 1983, Friedemann Graef, who has won a number of prizes as composer and interpreter, has also risen to prominence in the area of New Music. He has produced works for choir and orchestra, compositions for radio plays and ballet productions, organ and chamber music.

Achim Goettert, born 1951, lives in the Nuremberg area, is composer as well as improvising musician and is chiefly concerned with multi-media projects. Since the end of the seventies he has been working with his own Jazz groups, appears regularly with the Latin band „Papa Caliente“ as well as in other line-ups from duo to the large ensemble „The Improvisers Pool“. Musicians such as Kevin Coyne, Conrad Bauer, John Tchicai, Uwe Kropinski, Günter Sommer, Hans Kennel and Kamalesh Maitra, writers and actors such as Oliver Karbus, dancers the likes of Robert Wechsler and Jutta Czurda, visual and performance artists such as Grace Yoon and Duke Meyer have all guested in Achim Goettert’s projects. He has written compositions for his own groups, for film, theatre and radio. Achim Goettert is author of music educational works and, apart from his workshop teaching activities, as guest lecturer at the ‘Akademie der Bildenden Künste’ (Academy of Fine Arts) in Nuremberg as well as head of the Jazz & Pop’ department at the ‘Musikschule Nuremberg’, organises concerts and festivals, and since 1992 the ‘Gostenhofer Jazztage’ in Nuremberg.
Translation: Isabel Seeberg & Paul Lytton

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