Posts Tagged ‘video’

Klaus Thunemann’s Foray into Jazz

Michael Naura - Vanessa

The vast major­i­ty of peo­ple who have record­ed bas­soon in jazz con­texts have been dou­blers who pri­mar­i­ly play sax­o­phone, such as Illi­nois Jacquet, Frankie Trum­bauer, and Ben Wen­del. A very small num­ber of play­ers (Paul Han­son and Michael Rabi­now­itz are the best known) tru­ly spe­cial­ize in play­ing jazz on the bas­soon. But there is a third cat­e­go­ry as well: orches­tral bas­soon­ists who have occa­sion­al­ly ven­tured into jazz con­texts.

In 1935, Sol Schoen­bach record­ed four tunes by British jazz pianist Regi­nald Foresythe in a small group that also includ­ed Ben­ny Good­man and Gene Kru­pa. Ken­neth Pas­man­ick, long­time prin­ci­pal bas­soon­ist of the Nation­al Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra, played on two albums by gui­tarist Char­lie Byrd. And Manuel Ziegler, prin­ci­pal bas­soon­ist of the New York Phil­har­mon­ic from 1957 to 1981, record­ed a num­ber of albums in the late 1950s with Gun­ther Schuller, the Mod­ern Jazz Soci­ety, and the Mod­ern Jazz Quar­tet.

But one of the most sur­pris­ing (to me, at least) and impres­sive jazz out­ings by an orches­tral bas­soon­ist is Klaus Thune­mann’s appear­ance on Ger­man pianist Michael Naura’s 1975 album Vanes­sa (ECM 1053). Nau­ra and Thune­mann are joined by Wolf­gang Schlüter on marim­ba, Eber­hard Weber on bass, and Joe Nay on drums. Schlüter and Nau­ra worked togeth­er exten­sive­ly, and Weber and Nay col­lab­o­rat­ed with them on a num­ber of albums. But this is Thunemann’s only record­ing with the group, and as far as I can tell, his only jazz record­ing peri­od. On the back cov­er of the album, Nau­ra writes:

…we team up with Klaus Thune­mann, who is solo bas­soon­ist in the ‘North­ern Ger­man Radio Sym­pho­ny Orches­tra’ (NDR), pro­fes­sor at the Han­nover Col­lege of Music, and who plays Schön­berg under Pier­re Boulez equal­ly as com­pelling­ly as he does Vivaldi with the ‘I Musi­ci di Roma.’ I believe it was pre­cise­ly this dis­tance from which Thune­mann has for many years and with inter­est viewed jazz, that pro­vid­ed the stim­u­lus which inspired us when we made this record­ing.

Thune­mann fig­ures promi­nent­ly in three of the album’s six tracks. “Sal­va­tore” opens the album, and at 11:38, is by far the longest tune on the record. It fea­tures a soar­ing, lyri­cal bas­soon melody fol­lowed by two and a half min­utes of impro­vi­sa­tion by Thune­mann. Schlüter takes his turn, then the whole group engages in some very open-ended impro­vi­sa­tion, includ­ing some bas­soon mul­ti­phon­ics. The bas­soon melody returns at the end. “Baboon” begins and ends as a dirty, funky tune in which Thune­mann explores a rough and even some­times growl­ing tone. The mid­dle is a blaz­ing­ly fast group impro­vi­sa­tion that does not include bas­soon. Thune­mann gets a co-writing cred­it on the album’s last tune, “Black Pigeon”. It opens with almost two min­utes of bas­soon impro­vi­sa­tion — much of it com­plete­ly solo. About two min­utes in, it launch­es into a mid-tempo groove, with bas­soon melody and a long marim­ba solo from Schlüter. Thune­mann takes anoth­er solo turn before return­ing to the melody at the end.

All in all, this album con­tains the most exten­sive and impres­sive impro­vi­sa­tion I’ve heard from some­one we think of as a one of the giants of the “legit” bas­soon world. Thune­mann sounds at ease in the ensem­ble, and uses his con­sid­er­able tech­nique to great advan­tage, run­ning all over the horn and engag­ing in extend­ed tech­niques such as mul­ti­phon­ics, growl­ing, and pitch bends. He even, much to my delight, explores realms of tone very dif­fer­ent from what you hear on, say, his well-known record­ing of the Weber Con­cer­to. You can read a more gen­er­al review of the album on the between sound and space blog.

I learned of the exis­tence of this album while work­ing on my dis­ser­ta­tion on the bas­soon in jazz, and includ­ed it my discog­ra­phy. But at the time I wasn’t able to actu­al­ly get my hands on a copy — it hasn’t ever been rere­leased on CD. The first time I heard any of it was when Jolene Masone post­ed one track last year as part of the “Best Bas­soon Week Ever!” series on her blog. That one tune blew me away, and I renewed my search for the album, final­ly snag­ging a copy on eBay.

At this point in the post, I would typ­i­cal­ly include one track trans­ferred from the album. But this time I can do one bet­ter — I man­aged to dig up and post video footage of Thune­mann with the Michael Nau­ra Quin­tet play­ing “Sal­va­tore” at the Kon­gresshalle in Frank­furt am Main, Sep­tem­ber 27, 1974:


Be sure to check out the free impro­vi­sa­tion (includ­ing bas­soon mul­ti­phon­ics), which starts around the 10-minute mark in this live ver­sion. And if that’s not your thing, the band returns to the form around 12:25.

TuBassoon at U-Nite

TuBassoon at U-Nite

TuBas­soon with mod­ern dancers dur­ing a U-Nite pro­mo shoot for Good Day Sacra­men­to. (Craig Koscho, Sac State Pub­lic Affairs)

On the evening of April 11th, I per­formed as part of the sec­ond annu­al U-Nite, a mini-festival of the arts at Sacramento’s Crock­er Art Muse­um. The event fea­tured fac­ul­ty and stu­dents from the var­i­ous parts of Sacra­men­to State’s Col­lege of Arts and Let­ters. Per­form­ers and exhibitors were sta­tioned around the muse­um, pre­sent­ing short pro­grams of music, dance, film, the­ater, visu­al arts, and the writ­ten word. My col­league Julian Dixon and I played in one of the gal­leries as the duo TuBas­soon.

Sur­round­ed by gor­geous Cal­i­for­nia land­scape paint­ings, we played 25–30 min­utes of music drawn from numer­ous sources. We had pre­vi­ous­ly played P.D.Q. Bach’s “Dutch” Suite for bas­soon and tuba, so that was an easy choice. Although there are at least a cou­ple of oth­er works writ­ten specif­i­cal­ly for bas­soon and tuba, we end­ed up adapt­ing the rest of our reper­toire from oth­er sources. We played the first move­ment of Mozart’s gor­geous Sonata, K. 292 (for bas­soon and cel­lo), one move­ment of a Tele­mann canon­ic sonata, and a suite of short tuba duets by Wal­ter Sear.

The morn­ing of U-Nite, Julian and I were part of a live seg­ment on the morn­ing show Good Day Sacra­men­to. We’re play­ing P.D.Q. Bach’s “Pan­ther Dance” in the back­ground while reporter Court­ney Dempsey inter­views U-Nite’s orga­niz­ers:

Inci­den­tal­ly, if TuBas­soon con­tin­ues, we might just have to make Courtney’s descrip­tion our mot­to. Tubas­soon: A lil’ tuba, a lil’ bas­soon.

After our evening per­for­mance, I was able to catch City­wa­ter’s per­for­mance of a new piece by Stephen Blum­berg, which was great. But unfor­tu­nate­ly, between grab­bing a bite to eat from the muse­um café, get­ting set up, and talk­ing to audi­ence mem­bers after our per­for­mance, that was all I was able to take in. But this video col­lage from Sac State’s Office of Pub­lic Affairs pro­vides an excel­lent overview of what I missed, and shows off the excel­lent range and diver­si­ty of the event:

New Wave Bassoon

Mo 45rpm Single  Cover

In my ongo­ing quest to find bas­soons in unex­pect­ed places, I’ve uncov­ered a new gem. The Mo (or some­times sim­ply “Mo”) was a Dutch New Wave band formed in 1979 by broth­ers Clemens and Huub de Lange. The band had a cou­ple of incar­na­tions, but its ini­tial line­up includ­ed singer Heili Helder, drum­mer Harm Bieger, Clemens de Lange on key­boards, and Huub de Lange on key boards and — you guessed it — bas­soon. Huub de Lange appears to be known most­ly as a choral com­poser now; here’s his Choral­Wiki page. I wrote to him ask­ing some ques­tions about the band, but got no respon­se.

A num­ber of the songs on The Mo’s epony­mous 1980 album include bas­soon. But one song in par­tic­u­lar stands out. “Band With Bas­soon” not only includes Huub de Lange’s bas­soon play­ing, but is also self-referentially about a band that uses a bas­soon! “Band With Bas­soon” also appears on a 45rpm sin­gle from the album (the cov­er of the sin­gle can be seen above). Here it is:

Listen to The Mo - Band With Bassoon

I’ve done my best to tran­scribe the lyrics, but there’s a line of two in the third verse that I just can’t quite make out. If you can fig­ure out what she’s singing there, please let me know.

So, guess what we found on the moon
Down in the crater lake
Don’t think our sto­ry is fake
A band with bas­soon

So, can you imag­ine our joy
They cap­tured us with their sound
Know­ing they couldn’t go wrong
The band with bas­soon

Boy, […play­ing a…]
Just a [lit­tle child]
So he said: “Bas­soon band,
You’ll be the star in our land”

Then, we got into the ship
Tak­in’ ‘em back to the earth
And we sang “Bas­soon band,
You’ll be the star in our land”

So, they’re rock­ing the world with their tune
Young kids, they shout for more
They nev­er seen that before
A band with bas­soon

YouTube, that great repos­i­to­ry of for­got­ten cul­ture, has two videos of The Mo in action. Both seem to be tak­en from about twelfth-generation tape copies of TV broad­casts, but they’re still watch­able. The first is a song called “Nan­cy” that fea­tures Huub de Lange rock­ing out front and cen­ter on bas­soon in a shiny bright blue 80s out­fit:

 

There’s no bas­soon play­ing in “Fred Astaire,” but de Lange has his horn at the ready in a stand next to his key­board:

Promo Video

A few weeks ago, Sac State’s Pub­lic Affairs office inter­viewed me and shot some footage of me play­ing. The fin­ished video was post­ed last week, right before my recital (more on this soon). I was a lit­tle busy at the the time, so I’m just get­ting around to post­ing it now: