Gebhard Ullmann / Michael Jefry Stevens Conference Call

Formed in 1997, this transoceanic collaborative quartet has developed a distinctive music that allows its members to delve into a host of approaches in real depth: rollicking swing, raucous rants, moody fogginess. From the very first tune, "Conference Call,” penned by reed virtuoso Berlin-based Ullmann, the group lay it down with authority. Despite the absence of regular drummer George Schuller, when you’ve got Gerry Hemingway subbing, you’re unlikely to suffer musically. And Gerry seriously rocks out, contributing the first blazing solo, only to be followed by a blistering, snaky soprano solo by Ullmann. This group understand the importance of pacing, as the second piece by NYC pianist Stevens’ "Liquid Cage” provides a delicate impressionistic contrast, replete with an engrossing extended bass solo by Joe Fonda, who is a magnificent unflagging foil for his colleagues throughout the entire CD. Echoes of Anthony Braxton can be heard in Ullmann’s "Mala Dr’ôle,” a spiky theme of pungent leaping intervals and jagged phrases, interrupted by a jaunty, off-kilter march and out-of-tempo improv. Bluesy "As I Wait” by Fonda closes the set with Ullmann switching to tenor as the group range far and freely. Recorded live at the venerable Outpost in Albuquerque, NM, Conference Call is another solid release on Mike Lintner’s 482 Music that continues to document worthwhile projects that fly under the radar of other labels in the genre. (Secret City)