Album Review

Keller, Hermann – “Nicht Ohne Wasser / 29 Stucke” – [Jazzwerkstatt]

abacus   1/8/2014   CD, Jazz


A pioneer of the prepared piano, Hermann Keller was born in Zeitz, Germany in 1945 and began experimenting with the “sound-expanded piano” in the 1970s. He uses primarily rubber bands to produce flagellant effects and metal screws to introduce a rattling polyphony into the mixture. On the first CD here, “Never Without Water” he plays with a quartet he’s worked with since the 90s and incorporates water drums and waterphones, along with prepared (with water) clarinet to follow the title thematically. Sometimes tense, moody and introspective, other times flimsy, jittery and whimsical, these improvisations have an astounding breadth of texture and timbre, sounding at times like ancient rhythms of a lost tribe of Atlantis and other times like a John Cage orchestra equipped with a toy store, or just the characters of toy story tripping out to some underground lounge jazz. A tinkering playhouse of trinkets throughout, with the second CD an assortment of solo pieces by Keller demonstrating his virtuosity at layering all sorts of rhythms and melodies amidst the clickety clack. You can hardly tell there is a piano being played on most of this album, though the last two tracks do feature him playing the keys clean. This music falls somewhere between modern classical experimental, freeform jazz and deconstructed sound improv, though who cares, its all fun and games (till someone gets a piano wire in the eye).

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