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Someone Talked

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Someone Talked
Someone Talked


For the last decade reedist and composer Uli Kempendorff has been an invaluable fixture on the Berlin jazz scene, quietly but steadily honing his own sound in countless contexts. In 2012 Field evolved from his first group, the Uli Kempendorff Quartet, becoming the first vehicle to truly reflect his erudition and curiosity. The band's first two albums are superb, but they didn't quite attain the approach Kempendorff had been searching for, so at the end of 2017, he remade the lineup, replacing original guitarist Ronny Grauper and drummer Oli Steidle with vibraphonist Christopher Dell and drummer Peter Bruun. "I was looking for a different sound," says Kempendorff. "The vibraphone changes the sound of the group from the get-gomore acoustic, everyone in charge and in control of their sound source. From the first gig, when we still had little written material under our belts and we were playing mostly improvised sets, there was a different sonic focus in the group, and I felt like I have more control of where to add my sound in a spatial kind of way. I love how the fullness of information, especially from the vibes, in terms of notes, is more an offering of different listening paths than something overwhelming." "It's not just the vibraphone, per se, but Christopher himself," he says of the new formation. "He brings a great focus 'to work' and I find he makes strong decisions. I love how dry and percussive his sound is. That creates a lot more space for everyone." He notes that bassist Jonas Westergaard also possesses "a dryer and more percussive sound with no sustain. That makes things more permeable and able to change directions quickly." Indeed, on Someone Talked the new iteration of Field revels in a drier conception with less overt harmonic exploration. It's not that the leader has abandoned those interests, but it's impossible to miss a heightened focus on intricate counterpoint and rhythmic origami, a collective approach where four (or more) moving parts engage in a pulse-quickening instability, constantly reordering, displacing, and chopping up grooves without ever collapsing. The music becomes like a jigsaw puzzle, with the individual pieces changing shape as the endeavor proceeds. "Peter and Jonas go way back, of course, but only recently started playing Jazz together again. Peter has amazing colors, and he's an incredibly sensitive player, but not unrelenting (in a good way). Peter doesn't do anything by rote. It's always deliberate, super awake. He has a great mix of supportive and challenging modes, which enable everyone to build longer 'arches.' Also, the two Danes have an interesting rapport, the way they work on timing and in certain places in the compositions, they push each other." What makes Someone Talked such a visceral, thrilling listening experience is that all four members push each other, collegially, to infuse a delicious tension into performances distinguished by constant give-and-take and quicksilver alterations. The listener can pick up on the almost centrifugal force on the album's twitchy, irresistibly groovy opener "Everything," where the interplay between Westergaard and Bruun is sublime. They tackle the steeplechase theme in deceptive lockstep, cutting against the grain of one another, affording Kempendorff multiple choices, whether skating over the deeply propulsive yet divinely splintered bass-and-drums or cutting against its grain. While the reedist says the current lineup allows him to put more information on the page, the band gamely develops each piece collectively during rehearsals. Rather than insisting on a strict fidelity to the score, Kempendorff values the way the musicians build, stratify, and mutate his ideas in practice. "One of my favorite aspects of this group is the strong contrapuntal webs we create," he says, noting the way "Pm&Cc" turns the focus to group interplay rather than strings of open improvisation. "The idea is more contrapuntal, conversational, and colloquial, looking at the material together. Lots of movement in all parts, lots of commentary." Indeed, while that tune and most of the other pieces on the album contain incisive improvising, the real action happens within the quartet, as inverse lines and polyrhythms offer a beguiling lattice of interwoven sound, regularly pierced and prodded by spontaneous commentary. The reprise of the tune that closes the album provides a radically different perspective, revealing how deftly the quartet can remake a tune into something new. His piece "Kopfkino" was recorded previously with the Julia Hülsmann Quartetwhich he joined in 2018for its 2019 ECM album Not Far From Here as "Einschub," where his tenor part shapes its tender melody with a weightless grace, inextricably linked to the structure of the composition. It takes on a decidedly different form as "Kopfkino," simultaneously more limber and jagged as it eschews a conventional swing feel, with the drummer assembling fractal rhythmic constellations. In fact, outside of "Open Up," every piece embraces tricky rhythmic schemes, giving Bruun and Westergaard the space to play with time like a precarious game of Jengaexcept their constructions never collapse or totter. It feels like a completely different piece of music in Field's hands. The fluidly spiky patterns played by Dell on the endlessly pivoting "Dresden" recall the heyday of Bobby Hutcherson's work as a sideman on countless late 60s Blue Note datesalbeit without the elongated decaybut within 30 seconds, when Kempendorff enters the picture, that image is shattered, with the bassist providing an anchor for sonic rollercoaster ride, whether through a delightfully springy walking pattern or darkly abraded arco lines that give the performance a moment to catch its breath before somersaulting forward. Dell and Bruun infuse a new sonic profile and sensibility to Field, giving Kempendorff greater possibilities on the page and off. He's excited to bring his clarinet back into the fold. "Playing with these guys is challenge, and it's fun to try and rise to it. And I find it interesting to find ways to sonically fit in there and make the saxophone sound the way i hear it in this context. It's really almost like a research thing for me to grow as a writer and player. Kind of old-fashioned." Peter Margasak


  1. Name
  2. Everything
  3. Open Up
  4. Pm&Cc
  5. Dresden
  6. Kopfkino
  7. Argh
  8. Pm&Cc Reprise

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