Gebhard Ullmann's Ta Lam Zehn | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Gebhard Ullmann's Ta Lam Zehn




The all-reed format has pretty well lost its novelty value--over the last couple of decades sax quartet after sax quartet has made insightful investigations of pure timbre, harmony, and counterpoint. Still, there's something intriguing--freakish, even--about Gebhard Ullmann's Ta Lam Zehn, a tentet with nine reed players and a lone accordionist. Ullmann, who splits his time between New York and Berlin, started the project as an outgrowth of his duo with Swiss accordionist Hans Hassler, a regular with the Vienna Art Orchestra; five 1991 pieces on the new compilation Ta Lam (Songlines) feature just the two of them, with Ullmann overdubbing six woodwind parts. The remainder of the compilation, recorded in 1994, uses eight musicians, but the two sessions don't sound that different. Ullmann writes with a distinctly European flavor, and the cover of Kurt Weill's ubiquitous "Mack the Knife" is telling: the influence of cabaret and classical drips from his overripe melodies and dissonant arrangements. When Ullmann rearranged many of the same compositions for the 1995 album Basement Research (Soul Note), made with American saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, bassist Drew Gress, and drummer Phil Haynes, they took on a much different feel--more brusque, jagged, earthy, and emotional. But it's with his largest ensemble that Ullmann will make his Chicago debut. Wednesday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 773-276-3600. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.

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