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Late Hans Koller's 'Relax With My Horns' 1966 Reissue on MPS-Germany (REVIEW)

By Mike Greenblatt m.greenblatt@classicalite.com on Dec 14, 2015 03:43 PM EST

The re-release of Hans Koller's 1966 Relax With My Horns (MPS, Germany) shows a master at the top of his game. For us intense listeners, the disc is composed, arranged and produced with a sense of cheekiness. The sum is a tidy little package of swing, blues and multi-tracked sax that echoes the iconic group Supersax, the wild 1972 saxophone quintet who performed all things Bird.

In the beginning, America tried to get Viennese saxophonist Hans Koller (1921-2003) to emigrate to the States. But the musician, who at the time was a seminal figure in post-war European jazz, refused to move.

Still, he performed with Stan Kenton, Lee Konitz, Oscar Pettiford and Kenny Clarke and even co-founded one of Europe's first jazz-rock fusion bands, Free Sound.

While bassist and pianist Hans Rettenbacher is on the disc alongside drummer Rafi Luderitz it's the sound of that sax choir that seems to carry Relax With My Horns. At just under 30 minutes, it does not tire after each listen. Sure, you get your obligatory blues but you also get two doses of Picasso-inspired free-form flight ("Music For Pablo" and "Music For Pablo 2").

Influenced by Eric Dolphy (1928-1964), Koller's playing soars on the recordings. He is equal parts humorous, humble and knowledgeable (particularly with his exceptional ability to over-dub). "The Twister" is a whirling track, zig-zagging all over town while "Half And Half" cracks open in the middle of a march to reveal a unique swing.

Though MPS has also re-released Koller's Vision, it's actually Relax With My Horns that is the one to own. It's a short burst of terrific tone while its different feels make it seem as if each track belongs to a different album (except, of course, for the two Picasso pieces).

The time might be right for an extended era of Hans Koller appreciation, certainly. From his early work in The Hot Club Of Vienna to 1950 when he relocated to Germany, Koller has made some startlingly good music throughout his career.

He has performed alongside Dizzy Gillespie, Albert Mangelsdorff and Benny Goodman and, in light of these recordings and more, he appears to be able to anticipate the inevitable changing of the times often assumed in music. In 1970, he returned to Vienna to start Free Sound and by the time the 1980s dawned, he was a fixture in The International Brass Company.

And with that, we must hear more. But ff Koller hasn't surprised you enough, he also wrote an opera called New York City in 1968 and was a recognized abstract painter.

Make your way to purchase the disc now but before you do so, check out a small preview of Koller and Free Sound below.

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TagsHans Koller, REVIEW, MPS-Germany, Stan Kenton

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