Tag Archives: Steven Hess

The New York City Jazz Record review by John Sharpe

CF 238Kyle Bruckmann’s WRACK – Cracked Refraction (Porter)
Boris Hauf Sextet – Next Delusion (CF 238)
In a way it’s not surprising that reedman Jason Stein has become the go-to guy for challenging or experimental music that needs a bass clarinet. The Chicago-based New Yorker not only specializes in the deep-toned licorice stick, but also seeks to avoid the instrument’s obvious influences in his quest for the extremes. Consequently his woody fluidity frequently extends into bracing harmonics and tonal distortion.He speaks in tongues, though in a distinctive voice, heard to varying effect on two recent discs.

As part of oboist Kyle Bruckmann’s WRACK, Stein contributes to an unusual frontline on Cracked Refraction, completed by the leader and Jen Claire Poulson’s viola. Along with the accomplished pairing of Anton Hatwich (Dave Rempis Percussion Quartet) on bass and Tim Daisy (Vandermark 5) on drums, they move between tightly corralled formations and freewheeling expression in the blink of an eye, fulfilling the demands of Bruckmann’s idiosyncratic compositions, which combine jazz and contemporary classical methods. When Stein steps out it’s still very much within the well-demarcated frameworks of the multi-sectioned pieces, over spritely bass and drums on the title track, amid lurching rhythms and madcap cartoon march tonalities or in a knotty tattoo on the lengthy “Imaginary Caverns”, one of the standout tracks, reminiscent of Anthony Braxton’s Ghost Trance Music in its steady stream of eighth notes and wildly bounding intervals. Bruckmann’s canny arrangements achieve a bigger than expected sound through pitching subsets of the group against one another in multiple layers and tempos. Appropriately enough the concluding “NJBC”, based on a lullaby which Bruckmann sings to his daughter, is the most emotionally direct cut, introduced by Stein at his most reflective and featuring the leader’s vocally inflected oboe and Daisy’s marimba in a sweet conclusion to a set of winningly labyrinthine astringency.

On Next Delusion by Berlin-based saxophonist Boris Hauf, Stein forms part of an even more unconventional lineup. There can be few instrumentations that are completely novel, but three horns matched with three drumsets recalls few precedents. Waxed on one of the German’s regular trips to Chicago, Hauf has assembled a talented crew, though their abilities are almost totally sublimated to the leader’s offbeat conceptions. For much of the time, the three percussionists(Frank Rosaly, Steven Hess and Michael Hartman) are so restrained as to be subliminal and the horns (Keefe Jackson, alongside Stein and Hauf) aren’t much more demonstrative. It’s largely impossible to tell who does what in the four tracks, which defy categorization in their execution of Hauf’s austere and rigorous charts.Dissonant unisons and subdued drones characterize the horn lines, which often sound on a parallel but unconnected track to the rumbling massed drums. Ultimately it’s a curiosity that sounds like nothing else.


Crow With No Mouth review by Jesse Goin

Boris Hauf Sextet – Next Delusion (CF 238)
A collision of musicians that on paper might suggest fractious, frantic results, is instead a gestalt of tempered, balanced, largely restrained playing, with egos in abeyance and empathy keenly evident. You can refer to Bill Meyers’ fine liner notes for a run-down of Hauf’s affair with the city, but I do find one aspect of this ensemble’s joined sensibilities of interest. Essentially the Sextet is an encounter between Chicago improvisers of the Umbrella Music Collective (Jason Stein, Keefe Jackson and Rosaly) and musicians associated with (let’s forgo bickering about placeholder names) EAI (Michael Hartman of T.V Pow, Hauf with his Efzeg affiliation, Steven Hess of, among many projects, Haptic). A little research reveals that all of the Sextet came to Chicago, from every direction, between 1999-2001. Efzeg became active in Vienna in 1999, but Hauf began his infatuation with the Midwestern city that year, returning annually, more or less, to this date; Keefe and Rosaly hit the city in 2001; T.V. Pow, as a trio, became active in the city at that time; in other words, the present-day Sextet gathered in Chicago at least 12 years ago, drawn to it as a burgeoning locus for experimental music. That’s one aspect of this collision.

The music at hand owns some of the blurring of individual roles associated with Efzeg or Haptic; the horns often braid and twine together without solos or a foregrounded voice. There are passages where, oddly and refreshingly, the three drummers lay out, opening a World Saxophone Quartet-like space for Stein, Hauf and Jackson’s stacked harmonies. The flip is true as well – one piece finds the percussion rumbling alone, with an admirably tamped-down fire. There are occasional bursts of frenetic reed work, though reigned in and always returning and folding back into the whole.

Somehow – and I count this as no small feat – Hauf has immersed himself for many years in his adopted city, his love for the improvisation forged there self-evident, without becoming derivative or diluting his own sound and approach. This enables the Sextet to be a strange brew, an authentic collective, remaining horizontal, unimpeded by egos, and able to foment, as they do on Next Delusion, a surprise or two.

Chicago Reader review by Peter Margasak

Berlin-based Austrian reedist Boris Hauf has been a regular visitor to Chicago since 1998, often taking up residency for months at a time. He’s developed close ties and friendships with many locals, mostly notably the members of TV Pow. Hauf arrived here Sunday night for a stay of two and a half weeks, and on Wednesday he’ll perform at the Hideout in an improvising quartet with bass clarinetist Jason Stein, bassist Anton Hatwich, and drummer Tim Daisy. Also on the bill is a project called Baseless led by cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm (here doubling on guitar), which includes saxophonist Nick Mazzarella, percussionist Steve Hunt, and analog synth player Aaron Zarzutzki.

Two of Hauf’s latest recordings were cut in Chicago during a 2010 visit, and they both bring together players from the improvised and experimental-music communities. Next Delusion (Clean Feed,CF 238) is a sextet outing with fellow reedists Stein and Keefe Jackson and drummers Frank Rosaly, Steve Hess, and Michael Hartman, and as Reader contributor Bill Meyer writes in his liner notes, “You might find the Berlin-based saxophonist’s accompanists on the same bill, but not in the same group.” Indeed, Hauf combines aesthetics and personnel from both worlds not only on Next Delusion but also on Proxemics (Creative Sources), a quartet album with Jackson, Hess, and keyboardist Judith Unterpertinger; they dig deep into sustained drones rippling with subtle textural variation, while maintaining a clearly improvisational mind-set.

Everyone joining Hauf for Wednesday’s performance is rooted in Chicago’s jazz and improvised-music community, but all of them are flexible enough that things could go in any direction. Below you can listen to a piece from Next Delusion.

Paris Transatlantic review by Jason Bivins

Boris Hauf Sextet – NEXT DELUSION (CF 238)
The bewildering pace and high batting average of Clean Feed continues, and this latest batch brings together a range of improvisational approaches, scenes, and meetings. Boris Hauf is probably still best known as a participant in the Vienna improvising scene of the turn of the millennium, a saxophonist as comfortable in electronically rich environments (like Efzeg) as in micro-improvising. This new sextet music – with Hauf on tenor and soprano, Keefe Jackson on tenor and contrabass clarinet, Jason Stein on bass clarinet, and Frank Rosaly, Steven Hess, and Michael Hartman on drums (Hess also adds electronics) – is a rich amalgam of the two approaches. Next Delusion often sounds as if something of the woody intensity of Gebhard Ullman’s clarinet trio (at least their methodology if not their instrumentation) meets with a percussion sound midway between the spare beats of Martin Brandlmayr and a kind of Paul Lovens bustle. The opening “Gregory Grant Machine” is terrific, moving between sections of Polwechsel’s flinty sparseness and solemn moving chords from low woodwinds, continually dipping in and out of silence. It’s an approach that Hauf favors for this instrumentation, and he uses it even more effectively on “Eighteen Ghost Roads,” whose slow sectional chords rise patiently and deliberately to a stately, ROVA-esque feel before erupting in a threeway percussive rumble that sets up a different context for the same horn movement. There’s plenty of variation on the record, lest you think there are simply different settings for this general approach. Each tune features great attention to tonal / timbral contrast, often pitting high whining feedback against eructations from the lower horns. A burble of reed popping sets the course on “Fame & Riches,” which morphs via woven tones and the gentlest, deftest cymbal work into a sustained hum of an atmosphere. And the closing “Wayward Lanes” races along with a skirling series of bass clarinet patterns wending through a thicket of rimshots. It’s a compelling record, a consistent study of contain tension and contrasts.

Gapplegate Music review by Grego Edwards

Boris Hauf Sextet, Next Delirium, with Keefe Jackson and Jason Stein
Some music takes time to absorb. I don’t always get it right away. The Boris Hauf Sextet and their Next Delusion (Clean Feed 238) was one of those. I suppose that is because it is a sextet of an unusual sort, doing things one doesn’t expect.   It’s three reeds–Boris Hauf (tenor, soprano), Keefe Jackson (tenor, contrabass clarinet) and Jason Stein (bass clarinet), the latter two especially known as important improvisers. And it’s three drummers–Frank Rosaly, Steven Hess and Michael Hartman.   Improvisation is there throughout, and especially on the last track, but the overarching push is toward open compositional structures: long tones and chordal voicings, clicks and pops, multiple velocity jabs, and drums as color, and when they get going, as irresistibly anarchic barrages.   There’s not a great deal of wind improvising in the traditional new jazz sense until the final section, where you get a cascade of three-horn energy blasts.   Once you understand the structural arch and compositional trajectory, you cease to expect something else and just sit back and let the sounds envelop you. And that for me was when I starting liking what I was hearing a good deal. It’s an exercise in disciplined freedom. And it’s very good!

Jazz´n´More review by Jürg Solothurnmann

Boris Hauf Sextet – Next Delusion (CF 238)
Hauf, a saxophonist, electronic musician, performance and video artist lives in Berlin and maintains a close relationship with Chicago’s avantgarde scene, where he initiated and also curates “Chicago Sound Map”, a festival focusing on the dualism of composition and improvisation. Hauf’s last CD “efzeg krom” was released 2006 on hatHUT. Through selective concepts this German-US production “Next Delusion” successfully translates sound and structures of electronic music to acoustic improvisations. The atmosphere of the collective is the primary focus. Transparent and effective drama is created by clear texture changes that remind me of Bill Dixon and Barry Guy’s LJCO. In “Eighteen Ghost Roads” the three reeds gradually ascend in small groups of sustained notes, to be then primed in the second part by the rumbling continuum of the drums. The reeds weave diverse soundscapes composed of tongue and breath noises, violent chanting and oscillating metallic sounds and become the medium of contemplation.

Der Saxofonist, Elektroniker und Performance/Videokünstler Hauf lebt in Berlin, aber pflegt enge Kontakte zur Avantgarde Chicagos, wo er seit 2007 auch das Festival ”Chicago Sound Map” zwischen Komposition und Improvisation leitet. Die letzte CD ”efzeg krom” des Berliner Saxofonisten Hauf erschien 2006 bei hatHUT. Seine deutsch-amerikanische Produktion ”Next Delusion” ist ein gelungener Versuch, die Sounds und Strukturen der Elektronik mit selektiven Konzepten in akustische Improvisationen zu übersetzen. Es geht vor allem um die Atmosphäre des Kollektivs. Klare Texturwech- sel erzeugen eine schlichte, effektvolle Dramatik, die mich auch an Bill Dixon und Barry Guys LJCO erinnert. In ”Eighteen Ghost Roads” hangeln sich z.B. die drei ähnlichen Blasinstrumente mit kleinen Gruppen ausgehaltener Töne allmählich in die Höhe, grundiert im zweiten Teil vom polternden Kontinuum der Trommeln. Ambientartig werden Bläsersounds vom Zungen- und Atemgeräusch bis zum heftigen Skandieren, schwingende Metallofone und andere Free-Errungenschaften zu verschiedenen Klangflächen verwoben und so zum Medium der Kontemplation. Eindrücklich.

Cuadernos de Jazz review by Jesús Gonzalo

Boris Hauf – NEXT DELUSION (CF 238)
Hauf es músico y Dj residente en Berlín que gusta de pasar temporadas, parece que estivales, en Chicago. Admirador de Fred Anderson, fue introducido por el histórico de la AACM en una escena a la que acabó rendido, como se dice en las notas, ya que “aquí puedes encontrar músicos en la misma noche que lean composiciones orquestales, que hagan improvisación electroacústica y monten una especie de rave pop-punk”…

Esta bella edición en Clean Feed abunda en una producción ciertamente especial y cuidada en todos los sentidos, desde el diseño al sonido y por supuesto el formato. Basta comprobar la lista de músicos que participan, sin ver el interior, para que resulte atractivo. El problema está en las ideas que en él se destilan, porque si lo que se quiere hacer es un disco conceptual hay que, primero, intentar ser algo original (el arte de la idea fue el del siglo XX) y lo segundo que el lenguaje especulativo que uses a nivel formal no acabe siendo sólo envoltorio. En cuanto a estética musical, básicamente está hecha de las respiraciones lineales de los vientos en contraste de materia con la percusión. Cuestión que habíamos apreciado justo desde esta escena de Chicago en diversos proyectos colectivos y que partiría – y lo seguirán haciendo- de un contexto entre silencios y de cierta aleatoriedad ya avanzado por John Cage en sus últimas piezas númericas (Four o Fifty Eight sin su tamaño) y, por afinidad en el planteamiento de duraciones y en este mismo sello, con Matt Bauder y su grupo Memorize the Sky, que siendo la mitad de músicos proporcionan mucho más juego cromático.

En esa expansión circular cercana al silencio, con esos vibratos que parecen espectros y una percusión de timbres metálicos ambientales, en otro encuadre contemporáneo que sugiere a Salvatore Sciarrino, resumiría el significante de los dos primeros cortes, siendo los dos últimos los más estimulantes del disco. En el tercero se llega desde lo anterior, en planos suspendidos que se cruzan e inducen a una tensión por división de voces que abre Jason Stein. Este proceso emergente nos lleva hasta el último tema, donde patrones martilleantes y repetitivos en los vientos crean una agitación que es apoyada en grosor y volumen por la percusión, entendida ésta no desde la libertad de figuras (más bien los platos) sino desde la superposición y concentración de ellas. Esperemos que la próxima vez no nos desilusione.