Reviews by Massimo Ricci

The A23H chronicle


GESTALT ET JIVE - Gestalt et Jive ( Creative Works Records)

Gestalt et Jive in Wikipedia

The concept behind Gestalt et Jive is pretty easy to explain, and inversely proportional to the complexity of their music. Comprising members from three different countries and languages, the group was founded in 1984 by Alfred Harth with the intent of creating "hot and danceable free improvisation". The original line-up was made of Harth, Ferdinand Richard (of Etron Fou LeLoublan fame), Steve Beresford and Uwe Schmitt. The latter was replaced on drums by Anton Fier and, later on, Peter Hollinger. All of these astute musicians except Hollinger were involved in the "Mark I" version of G&J, well represented by their first album "Nouvelle Cuisine" (which I'll talk about in another occasion). But I felt necessary to start this argument with the "Mark II", as the skeletal-yet-athletic trio of Harth, Hollinger and Richard is an accurate example of the so-called "poetic" of such an abnormal band. This record - originally released as a double vinyl LP in 1986 - fully satisfies Harth's demand of "never making up pre-concepts and never playing compositions" in this setting. The instant architectures of "Gestalt et Jive" follow a modicum of rules, one of them being the development of several "fragments" ("Versatzst├╝cke", in 23's words) within a single "tune", snippets that the musicians can mix, destroy and shift in a brain-wrecking cut-up (John Zorn is not the only one who used to do these things, you know...). To facilitate this feeling of perennial mutability, the artists also included sudden changes of instruments during the performance; while Hollinger "limits" himself to drums and percussion (which is enough to send many colleagues into hiding for years; Hollinger is BAD), Harth uses tenor and alto sax, trombone, trumpet, bass clarinet, mouthpieces and voice, while Richard gives birth to oblique figurations and odd-metred arpeggios on the neck of his Fender VI. There is much to like for everybody, including - well, yes - fans of Etron Fou (are there any still around?), as Richard's timbre is very influential in its unmistakable coolness, at times literally cloning the irony of that group's peg-legged time signatures. The riff-based follies characterizing some of the "tunes" highlight the unstoppable cerebral activity of the players, Harth genially fathering one incongruous coup de tete after another while he transforms himself in a depraved muezzin first, a dejected Tuvan later on, all the while incinerating everyone trying to get to terms with his honking promiscuity and blaring rage. Hollinger, whose semi-obscurity is totally unjustified, is one of the best drummers of the last thirty years, a scary independence of the limbs at the basis of a style that lets us picture sparkles flying from his set. Get revitalized by three ugly ducklings who, more than 20 years ago, were already looking down from the top of the hill; matter-of-factly, there's nobody today playing music at this technical level with the same evil intentions. Dance on that 15/8, nerd, or these piranhas will eat you.

In Touching Extremes