Monday, 9 April 2007


I often think about some of the questions raised in this review. Innovation - is it the be all and end all? No doubt Mangelsdorff was a true original, but does his playing actually sound any good?

This review forced me to re-evaluate him, and although I can think of more pleasant sounds on the trombone and probably prefer acolyte Konrad Bauer, I was pleased to conclude that whatever else Mangelsdorff may be, he's not Paul Rutherford...


Triplicity; Soulbird; Warbling Warbler; Outhouse; Virgin Green of Spring; Green Shading Into Blue; Subconscious Skylark; Brief Impressions of Brighton; Perpetual Lineations; Ancore Ex Tempore.

Albert Mangelsdorff (tb); Arild Andersen (b); Pierre Favre (d), (April 1979).

A true original, the passing of German trombone innovator Albert Mangelsdorff last year, aged 76, raises some interesting questions about how history might treat is legacy. Mangelsdorff’s style was very personal, and his particular innovation, trombone multiphonics, not particularly influential. Perhaps he could never be on to a winner by making an already unfashionable instrument even less sexy. His curate’s egg-like status perhaps explains why such a brilliant recording as this could sit in the vaults for over a quarter of a century.

Triplicity is a live recording made by North German Radio station NDR in Hamburg in 1979. Mangelsdorff is joined by Norwegian bassist Arild Andersen and Swiss drummer Pierre Favre, and from the opening title track, complete with melodic hook, chordal growls and swing-time feel, we’re treated to a session that ranks with Mangelsdorff’s very best work. “Soulbird” offers another of his trademarks, the didgeridoo-like drone, before a dialogue with nimble fingered Andersen develops. Favre’s familiar colouristic splashes work well on the floating ballads, and on the 14 minute “Warbling Warbler” he plays the gamut of free jazz percussion, from fine filigree detailing to floating swing. “Outhouse” is a typically Mangelsdorff-ian skewed freebop head that fairly rocks, whilst “Green Shading Into Blue” opens with an effects enhanced bass intro, fairly typical the late 1970s, before a fine slow burning funk piece emerges. “Subconscious Skylark” keeps up the ornithological theme, the trio heading towards near combustion, whilst “Brief Impressions of Brighton” which follows is an object lesson in his multiphonic techniques.

For all his daring embrace of open forms, Mangelsdorff always clung determinedly to his grounding in the jazz tradition, and should never be confused with the more dogmatic improvising scene that British trombone innovator Paul Rutherford represents. At times this music can be knotty, but to paraphrase Albert, there’s always a jazz tune, he hopes. Sound quality is immaculate, and with so little of Mangelsdorff’s work currently available following the virtual disappearance of the “Three Originals” collections (MPS), this superb release is particularly welcome. As fitting an epitaph as you could wish for a man who stood alone for so long and simply played what he heard.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, May 2006)

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