Saturday, 18 August 2007

Klaus König...

Time to end the recent Lee Konitz theme, and this review of a CD by his alphabetical neighbour Klaus König seems as neat a way as any to change direction.

The review expresses my genuine disappointment at the direction König's music was taking. His first three recordings for Enja were as fresh as anything in Europe at the time, showing great originality and ambition in the difficult area of composing and arranging for medium sized contemporary jazz ensemble. His humour, busy but detailed charts and choice of soloists was, for a time, second to none.

What followed was a massive let down for me, and to my knowledge König has pretty much dropped off the radar. I got rid of most of my König CDs in hasty disgust, but still think that everybody should own a copy of 'Times of Devastation'...

Black Moments
ENJA (ENJ-9428-2)

Dream-Land; Interlude !; Alone; Interlude II; Romance; Interlude III; Not Long Ago; Interlude IV; The Sleeper; Interlude V; Hatred Of A Minute; Interlude VI; Hymn; Interlude VII; A Dream Within A Dream; Interlude VIII; For Annie.

Andy Haderer (t, flhn); Reiner Winterschladen (t); Jorg Hüke, Klaus König (tb); Florian Heinl (tba); Claudius Valk (ss, ts, bs); Roger Henschel (as, sno, fl); Wollie Kaiser (ts, bcl); Claudio Puntin (cl, bcl, as); Michael Heupel (af, f, bf); Fabiene Trani (hp); Dirk Mondelien, Markus Segschneider (g); Stefan Rademacher (b); Martell Beigang (d); Mathias Haus, Thomas Meixner (perc); Phil Minton (v).
Recorded December 2001 to February 2002.

After such a promising start on his Enja debut ‘Times of Devastation/Poco A Poco’ (1988), the career of German trombonist/composer/arranger Klaus König seems to have taken a bit of a nose-dive. A former student of composer Mauricio Kagel, König’s early jazz work contained a delightfully askew mix of big band and small group writing.

What then followed was a series of conceptually over-blown projects, including music for Douglas Adams, Frank Zappa, and an ambitious oratorio for two soloists, choir, and orchestra. Vocalist Phil Minton, who sang (yes, Minton actually sang!) one of the parts in the oratorio, has the stage to himself here. Inspired by the dark verse of Edgar Allen Poe, selected poems are enunciated in a highly theatrical style. Interleaving each poem are a series of instrumental interludes, which I suspect will be of most interest to those approaching the work from a non-literary perspective.

König’s embrace of guitar-driven rock continues, the twin axe attack coupled with Minton’s arch delivery at times pulling the music perilously close to ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show’ territory, though I’m sure that König would insist that Zappa is his main man. It’s always a pleasure to hear Reiner Winterschladen’s playful trumpet, and Claudio Puntin’s showcase on ‘Interlude III’ is a breathtaking display of clarinet virtuosity. ‘Interlude IV’ is vintage König, full of unexpected twists and turns, and a suitable vehicle for Hüke’s full-throttle trombone. Overall, however, it is impossible to separate these strands from the fabric as a whole.

König’s talents as an arranger and composer are not in doubt. Everything, right down to the book-bound packaging, speaks of a project undertaken with loving devotion. Personally, however, I find his concept driven approach to music frustrating, and can’t make a wholehearted recommendation. For this reason ‘Black Moments’ may be of limited interest, though if the concept grabs you, you may just love it.

Fred Grand
(Jazz Review, February 2003)

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