Tá Lam 11

Released in 2011

DownBeat Five-Star Review

YouTube: https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=hkx_H30I-fs&list=OLAK5uy_kWAbAnRowoXPk6krri21YzEnC3UijEYVw

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/2lEFL34wrTxLRfwzE0lNBe?si=Ul6LXP02RUqtINUXp0AyBQ


Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus!
His name is like a magic formula. He even managed to transform himself into a living icon – his easily recognizable and imposing silhouette made him the Alfred Hitchcock of jazz. Everyone has seen the images of Mingus, but hardly anyone has heard his music. But then again, Mingus’ music is in a class of its own – only Mingus can play Mingus’ music. Otherwise it is just not Mingus. Legions and generations of musicians have attempted to interpret the man who has mediated between tradition and renaissance more intensely than any other in the world of jazz. And to this day hardly anyone has done him justice.
Mingus was deep. Heaven knows he was never one of those who just sailed through life, as just about everything he ever attempted was doomed to failure from the start, whether in private or as an artist. For many years he had trouble working with other musicians; his overbearing presence made long-term collaboration virtually impossible, something that many musicians learned the hard way. He was not a genius of musical perfection, but what made him special was his ability to let us hear the sounds of open wounds. Each of his pieces is like a living organism which twitches and screams. His life was in a constant state of rebellion, not only against society and his surroundings, but most of all against himself. And he transformed these extremes into music. He hated anything that was static, and so his music was in a state of constant movement. The friction between the individual elements unleashed an amazing amount of energy. Mingus was like a power plant – he could only be kept running by maintaining a careful balance between the impulsive pressures that could cause him to either implode or explode.
Mingus was black. He wasn’t just another black jazz musician like Miles, Trane, Bird, or Duke. Unlike other African-American artists, Mingus had to work twice as hard at justifying himself. In a society dominated by whites, Mingus suffered discrimination because he was black. But his light skin color also meant that many African-Americans were suspicious of him. The result was an even stronger identification with African-American culture. Mingus was a bassist, and he loved the long and deep notes, he celebrated the vagaries of oral culture. His musicians were not allowed to play from sheet music; instead Mingus sang the individual voices to them and then had them play from memory. At the end of his life when he could no longer play, his physical presence was enough to lend his music the sense of magical darkness that was so typical of Mingus’ work.
Mingus was epochal. He existed outside of time. Yes, he did participate in the confusion and commotion that marked his era, he commented on political and social movements, but caught between past and future the colossus sometimes found himself standing on shaky ground. He sought the perfect symbiosis between that which he was and that which he could be. His chorals reverberate with generations of black melodies reaching from the African savannah, the slave ships, and the cotton plantations to the American urban periphery. Mingus’ acute identification with the suffering of African-Americans was a constant driving force in his music. His pieces were fanfares that always left a huge, burning question mark hanging in the air. Why? Why us? Why me? Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus! Mingus?
He never received an answer, but then again he knew it was futile to wait. Mingus was no romantic – he was an idealist who hardly believed in the fulfillment of his own visions. It is precisely his own self-awareness intruding somewhere between monumental ego and microscopic self-esteem that makes it virtually impossible to interpret him. But Gebhard Ullmann is willing to risk it anyway, and he is aware of what he has going for him. At first glance the two musicians have almost nothing in common other than the fact that they have both dedicated themselves to jazz – although ultimately both of them would probably have dismissed or distanced themselves from even this single claim. And for good reason, too, as the distances seem almost insurmountable. New York – Berlin, black – white, socially underprivileged – respected established artist, before 1980 – after 2000. The list could go on and on.
With Ta Lam 11, Ullmann has achieved the inconceivable. He permeates the music by completely reinventing it. He does not try to recreate Mingus’ deep, dark, and timeless nature, but instead takes an individual piece, hits the reset button, and fills the music with his own emotional depth, urban darkness, and timeless resonance. As a native of Berlin he doesn’t try to tackle Mingus’ struggles, nor does he attempt to live out his desires – he doesn’t even try to interpret them. For Ullmann the compositions are a starting point for crafting a statement about his own generation in Berlin in the new millennium. Is this notion better or worse, more authentic or more decadent than all of the Mingus interpretations that have preceded it? UJhat is unique about this CO is that it doesn’t even ask the question. Ullmann isn’t interested in the one-hundredth rehashing the same old story. Instead he cuts his own path with some of the greatest compositions that have ever been written. Gebhard Ullmann has done nothing less than to free Mingus from himself. Finally!
Wolf Kampmann

Track Listing:

1. Canon (arranged by Gebhard Ullmann) 5:57

2. Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting/Boogie Stop Shuffle (arranged by Gebhard Ullmann) 8:28

3. Fables Of Faubus (arranged by Gebhard Ullmann) 12:58

4. Eclipse (arranged by Michael Thieke) 7:09

5. Jelly Roll (arranged by Gebhard Ullmann) 6:50

6. Self-Portrait In Three Colors (arranged by Gebhard Ullmann) 7:23

7. Nostalgia In Times Square (arranged by Benjamin Weidekamp) 8:24

8. Reincarnation Of A Lovebird arranged by Benjamin Weidekamp) 4:21


Gebhard Ullmann: bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, wood flute
Hinrich Beermann: bariton saxophone
Daniel Erdmann: tenor saxophone
Vladimir Karparov: tenor saxophone
Jürgen Kupke: clarinet
Joachim Litty; alto bass clarinet
Heiner Reinhardt: bass clarinet
Volker Schlott: alto soprano saxophone, woodflute
Michael Thieke: clarinet, alto clarinet
Benjamin Weidekamp: clarinet, alto saxophone
Hans Hassler: accordion

Recorded March 24-25, 2010, at RBB Studios, Berlin, Germany

Producer: Gebhard Ullmann

Engineer: Peter Schladebach

ProTools: Anja Bause
Recording Supervisor: Wolfgang Hoff
Artwork by Chris Hinze


Bass clarinetist/soprano saxophonist Gebhard Ullmann and his mostly reed-based aggregate present a portrait of Charles Mingus in a variety of colors: some, but not all of them, bold. Add to that palette more than a bit of impres – sionism, as these expertly arranged deliveries (most by Ullmann) contribute a new understand – ing and viewpoint on Mingus’ incredible corpus. In other words, it ain’t all straight up and down as we journey forth through eight reinterpreted songs, from titles like the earthy, soulful “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” (ingenious – ly medley-d with the more rowdy “Boogie Stop Shuffle”) to a mind-shuffling alternate universe of colors with “Reincarnation Of A Lovebird,” the theme only hinted at toward the very end. Listening to Tá Lam 11’s Mingus! does not require that one be a Mingus fan, or even a fan of instrument-based music. In fact, listening to their haunting re-imagining of “Reincarnation Of A Lovebird,” one might surmise that this music is just as much about this group as it is about Mingus, the unified field of this saxophon – ic blend over one chord pointing toward the inte – gration of sounds, the musical connections the 11 musicians must have with each other. Mingus! reminds listeners that Mingus’ music was heavily saxophone-based. So it was just a short walk for this band to jump in and explore. In each case, apart from sandwiching theme statements, there are rumination, fantasias and reveries. And the occasional hiccup of Hans Hassler’s accordion, which opens the whole she – bang with the solemn, almost classical “Canon.” Clearly, this band is in love with this music, which, in case anyone was wondering, is also played with resonant ferocity.

John Ephland (DownBeat)