Norbert Stein Direct Speech

It's amazing to hear how a creative musician can re-imagine another musician's music and make it their own. Such seems to be the case with German saxophonist Norbert Stein, who clearly owes a big debt to Archie Shepp. This isn't to say that Stein's tunes or approach to improvising are derivative, far from it. He has taken Shepp's declamatory delivery and fuzzy sub-tone sound and hooked them into a series of compositions that are at once speech-like and imaginatively melodic. The first of 11 tunes, "Chameleon Nature" would have sounded at home on Shepp's On This Night, with its abrasive tenor rasp and vivacious vibrato. "The Daughter of the Pope" has an obliquely bluesy line worthy of George Russell, and flutist Michael Heupel gets ample solo space to indulge in his glowing tone and slippery, silvery lines. Trombonist Matthias Muche lets his plunger mute do the talking on the joyously rambunctious "The Zen Commandments." Every tune has a punchy arrangement, a gutsy orchestration and a committed performance. Direct Speech is new jazz that actually sounds new, not like reverent ancestor worship. (Pata)