12 November 2012

Raining other worlds

The rain had stopped when I left the Gods for Hippo and No Tango, Christina Fuch’s Cologne quartet that was associating with Melbourne’s Andrea Keller and touring Australia and playing the Wangaratta Festival. This band is far more immediate and less of the mind than the “never rains” Coolerators, although it’s not at all uninformed. This was odd time signatures, expressive and involving solos, earthy multicultural rhythms and inflections, emotional risings and recoveries. Christina led the band with soprano sax (and also bass clarinet) and this was very much in the modern jazz tradition: wailing, lyrical, expressive, sounding nothing other than sax to my ears. I came to hanker for her solos as the night wore on; they were so mellifluous and expressive and well skilled. This was expression with musical and emotional purpose and openhearted honesty. I preferred the soprano sax, but her skills on the bass clarinet were also very comfortable. It’s a demanding instrument and everyone complains of squeaks but I noticed none. The whole band was unified in expression: sometimes unison lines with horn and accordion or bass, plenty of unusually inventive and discordant playing from that polka-sweet-sounding accordion, sometimes chatter between instruments, very often baselined by an embroidered regularity of drums and moderately repetitive bass. The tones were mellifluous and embedded in the band sound and the arrangements moved with easy inevitability. They liked different time signatures. 11-10 was a title but also a count over descending chords that changed every 21 beats. Buddha was the Euro folk of accordion melded with bass, all defined as 3/4 by the entry of the drums. Another was in 10/16 and was a rhythm that Christina had borrowed from some Iraqi friends. I particularly noticed the drums here, wry with tuned skins then outgoing with rocky indulgence then joined by a mid-Eastern inflected soprano sax. Later, a heavy and slow 12/8; a gentle and full toned waltz dedicated to Christina’s 8 year old daughter; a nicely morphing bass against 7/4; finally a confusing but fascinating melange of polyrhythms held together by a reliable 3/4 on drums. I loved the soprano sax and the drums particularly spoke to me, but it was the way this band merged into a musically expressive whole that most impressed me. This was worldly and open-hearted music with exposed emotions and I enjoyed it immensely. Again, this didn’t feel like Australian music despite Australia’s multiculturalism. This is an expression of many cultures, but a product of one, shared with another. And what do we give in return? They may have complained about not seeing a kangaroo, but they’ve toured the Alice and that’s something unique. Great to see them. No Tango comprised Christina Fuchs (soprano sax, bass clarinet), Florian Stadler (accordion), Ulla Oster (bass) and Christoph Hillman (drums).

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