The Facebook page for improv group Grosse Abfahrt is a hoot. It’s full of fun and frivolous stuff, lots of dirigible/zeppelin-related news (because…. yeah, I have no idea), and updates related to Tuesday’s upcoming concert: June 25, with guests Alfred 23 Harth and Torsten Muller (sax and bass, respectively) at the Center for New Music in San Francisco.
Taking advantage of YouTube, they’ve inserted some videos showing what those two guys can do. Rather than re-embed those here, I’ll just add some audio at the bottom of the post.
I haven’t written about Grosse Abfahrt in a couple of years. The name translates to “great departure,” and one reader told me it can be interpreted as “great difficulty” (as in a double-black-diamond ski slope). It’s a core group of five musicians that adds guests, often two from outside North America in most cases, to produce one big improvising collective. (Harth lives in South Korea and Muller in Vancouver, and they’re both German-born.)
The aesthetic is one of “lower-case” sound spaces: lots of curled, crinkly sounds and a careful respect for silences. Usually. Being an improv group, they can go in any direction they want.
Here’s the lineup for Tuesday:
- Core group —
- Local guests —
- International guests —
- Torsten Muller (bass)
- Alfred Harth (sax)
Now, regarding things-these-guys-can-do…
… Here’s Harth in an improv-jazz setting, a trio with Wilbur Morris (bass) and Kevin Norton (drums/vibes), taken from the album Waxwingweb@ebroadway (Clean Feed, 2001). First, from the piece “Interstice,” a quieter burble that’s more in the Grosse Abfahrt style:
… And, just for fun, Harth in that same piece, going for big sound and an Ayler-like crescendo:
… Finally, here’s a sample of a then-unreleased 2009 Grosse Abfahrt session provided to KZSU by Tom Djll. I posted another snippet from that session previously, but this one’s better; it streteches for a few minutes to demonstrate the ebb and flow of the music. Guests include Frank Gratkowski on clarinet. Oh, and don’t turn the volume up too much; it does get louder.