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Blogarrhea: The Mysterious Mangelsdorff!

By Mike Greenblatt m.greenblatt@classicalite.com on Oct 13, 2015 07:11 PM EDT

Aah, the mysterious Mangelsdorff! He grew up in Frankfort, Germany, soon mastering guitar and violin but it was on trombone where he made his mark. Since the Nazis banned jazz, he played "patriotic" music at first. In the 1950s, he finally flowered into one of the most unique 'bone men due to his furthering and refining of multiphonics. This meant playing the equivalent of chords and/overtone effects on an instrument that heretofore could only be blown one note at a time. Ornette Coleman, of course, took it one step further and called it harmolodics. Mangelsdorff would literally sing into his trombone which created a secondary note atop or below the note he'd play. Therefore, he could harmonize with himself. The effect was almost psychedelic.

In 1958, he was Germany's lone representative to share a stage with Louis Armstrong and Gerry Mulligan in the Newport Jazz Festival International Band. At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, he performed solo. In fact, he often played concerts without a band, blowing so stridently and provocatively that audiences actually cowered at his audacity. Ultimately, he stopped freaking out his crowds, and settled into decades of performing with such like-minded innovators as The Modern Jazz Quartet, Elvin Jones, Lee Konitz, John Lewis, Jaco Pastorius and many others.

Germany's MPS Records is spearheading a massive Albert Mangelsdorff renaissance by reissuing many of his illustrious experiments. After all, he is one of the very few European jazzers who would ultimately influence generations.

In 1980, at the age of 52, he hit the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland running with drummer Ronald Shannon Jackson [1940-2013] of Ornette Coleman's Prime Time band and Jean-Francois Jenny-Clark [1944-1998], one of France's greatest bassists. Live In Montreux captures in near-perfect clarity the night this power trio proceeded to blow the roof off the joint. Mangelsdorff went wild with his multiphonics as the Jackson/Jenny-Clark rhythm section rolled like a big giant wheel crushing everything in its path. The audience didn't know what hit it. Trombone, bass and drums: no piano or guitar to fill in the spaces. It's brash, bold, rough and shines like an uncut diamond.

"Dear Mr. Palmer" has the 'bone man alternating free-form flights of fancy with beautifully lyrical moments while "Mood Azure" is just him...until softly his mates creep in for some extremely delicate, tender and graceful interplay. "Stay On The Carpet" certainly predates today's bass'n'drum trance music-in 6/8 time, no less!-as Albert stays silent. "Rip Off" is a blues right out of the "Tricky" Sam Nanton playbook. (Nanton played trombone for years in the Ellington Orchestra.)

Triple Entente is a 1980 studio recording with trombone, piano, bass and drums. It's a controlled example of multiphonics at its best. Trombone Workshop is a more traditional super-session with Ike Persson, Jiggs Whigham and American Slide Hampton. Then there's Trombirds wherein he mangeldorffs the trombone to the point where it sounds like a human voice. It's a rare solo trombone record, yet engaging enough to digest in one sitting. Wild Goose is free, so free, in fact, you may not catch it. But, for the more adventurous ear, it's a romp, for here, he mangeldorffs the English folk song. With British '60s folksinging couple Colin Wilkie and Shirley Hart, and aided by the Hessen Radio Jazz Ensemble and his own quintet, they mangle sea shanties, drinking songs and 14th Century ballads alike. With Albert's brother, Emil, on flute, they prove British Folk and Euro Jazz are a natural fit, uh, almost.

Albert Mangelsdorff died in 2005 at 76 in the city where he was born.

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TagsAlbert Mangelsdorff, montreux jazz, Blogarrhea, Mike Greenblatt