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Oetz/Wagner/Stuart - "Permanent Flow"

There's a consensus in improvised music that it shouldn't be possible to distinguish what instrument makes what noise, or at least that it's probably best when you can't. 'Permanent Flow' confounds that. It's a project founded in 1995 by bassist Joscha Oetz, who three years ago released a powerful solo and duos set with Barre Phillips and percussionist Greg Stuart. Saxophonist Andreas Wagner had joined the PF circle three years before. Now San Diego based, the group play in a style that strongly emphasises the individuality of trio voices, soft reed murmurs, sotto voce bass and tiptoe percussion on "Complex Geometry"; harder-edged sounds only sparingly elsewhere. Oetz's bass only reveals its stringiness on "Straight Curves", by which time two thirds of the live set from Dizzy's has gone by, but what a sound...

     - Brian Morton, The Wire

I can't help it. When I pick up a disc that has a drums-bass-sax line-up, I immediately think, "Another one?". This Oetz/Wagner/Stuart offering is anything but another Wednesday cocktail jazz band, however. The improv, recorded live at Dizzy's in San Diego, is angular throughout and lets a lot of light in. The last track, a brief whiff of a conversation, capitalizes on the "what other sorts of sounds can we make with these instruments" technique of generating new creative dialogue. Plenty of intensity on exhibition here without threatening anyone's earpans with displays of machismo. You can't dance to it, but all the same, it kind of grooves.

     - Molly Sheridan, newmusicbox

The title of this album is also the name of a long-term group founded by Joscha Oetz in 1995, when he was still living in Cologne. This free improv unit has welcomed a number of musicians. On this release, Oetz performs with tenor sax player Andreas Wagner and drummer Greg Stuart. Both had appeared on the bassist's 2002 collection of solos and duos, Vieles Ist Eins. Permanent Flow features the complete set performed on October 14, 2003, in San Diego. The music resolutely belongs to the European free improvisation line of thinking. Peter Kowald's influence permeates Oetz's playing, even though he tends to have a stronger swing, even in a free context. Wagner keeps a foot in tonality and the other in texture, with "Complex Geometry" and "Straight Curves" illustrating both sides. His sound is not particularly distinctive, but efficient. The surprise on this recording is Greg Stuart, a highly creative percussionist with a very light touch. His refusal to even graze jazz territory pushes the other two to radicalize their vocabularies, especially in "Straight Curves" and the closing "Verzahnt." In fact, the whole set follows a progression of sorts, from rather serious free jazz to completely non-idiomatic free improv. Permanent Flow is an honest effort, and well recorded, but in the end it has few distinctive traits.

     - All Music Guide

The standout track on Permanent Flow (Accretions), a live date by the out-jazz trio of Joscha Oetz (contrabass), Andreas Wagner (tenor saxophone) and Greg Stuart (percussion), is titled "Straight Curves." It opens with Oetz playing a bluesy figure, which neither of the other musicians seems interested in disturbing; instead they contribute what sound like sonic accessories, bits of noise and brief riffs that keep Oetz aloft. ...

     - Disquiet

One might say that freestyle improvisational Jazz, in all its forms, has never really evolved since its humble beginnings in the gritty urban clubs and backrooms of the jazz-elite underground; the art of improvisation isn't really a style, but more of an exploration of art and theory. The ensemble of Permanent Flow was founded by mastermind bassist Joscha Oetz in 1995, and soon collected permanent members: saxophonist Andreas Wagner and percussionist Greg Stuart.

Now in 2004, Accretions Records has released the newest live improvisational recording of Oetz/Wagner/Stuart; the album is a 4 movement journey into the deep and roving world of the trio's artistic psyche. Oetz's contrabass drones behind the movement of "Complex Geometry", while Wagner and Stuart play on the other as the composition builds to a ferocious grind. "Membranen" sees Wagner taking the lead role with his almost middle-eastern styled backdrop of softly reflected saxophone. The opus continues with another minimally grinding feat of movement as the trio manipulates their instruments to convey one of the most interesting pieces on the disc. On "Straight Curves", Oetz's lone plucked bass is heard throughout the introduction, and is shortly accompanied by Wagner's tenor saxophone. Stuart then enters as the composition develops then dissolves into a minimal wasteland only to give way to the enraged percussive finale. Taking in, and continuing with the energy of the previous conclusion, the trio endures with "Verzahnt". Stuart and Oetz belt out explosive riffs of acoustic instrumentation, but above all, Wagner's forceful expulsions of air upon his reed give the most fervent and memorable performance.

Freestyle Jazz (for the most) part isn't for everyone, and the experimental freestyle Jazz of this new century can sometimes seem a bit choice. One thing is for certain, these three acoustically driven artists are extraordinary with the execution of their art form, and I certainly look forward to hearing their future recordings.

     - Dustin Michael,

Noise can be music, in its own way. You have to accept the music ethic of experimental audio artists and that beauty exists outside conventional musical avenues. Sometimes, nontraditional audio can supply the listener with evocative textures that maybe straight music just isn't cut out for. "Permanent Flow" is imbued with the enveloping nature of electronic ambient, etc., but it boasts a sound that is strongly rooted in the organic. One almost imagines random bursts from a variety of classic musical instruments while tribal percussiveness is scattered into the audio picture to deepen the textures. The pieces are elongated and you can hear the negative space (the space between sounds); the negative space becomes a vital part of the sound structure as it juxtaposes with the seemingly random squawks and thumps of the various instruments and items being utilized to generate the experimental non-vocal chatter of the sounds manipulated herein. This is a case where texture more than straightforward musicality dictates the artistic expression. Very nice for the open minded listener.

     - Kristofer Upjohn,

Experimental, freestyle improvisation, and a clunking, haphazard stop-start of disarray that sounds like a load of rats scurrying and nibbling their way through an orchestra. On the shout of go, the trio unveil their bass-sax-percussion blueprint - a piercing yet burly, ungainly gaggle of chopped and splintered jazz gone wrong, conducted through spontaneity, across three extensive episodes and a brief concluder. Extremely post-modern and cosmopolitan, but by the same means, not very musical or melodic, sounding like a first school band audition muck-about scoring a very strange, low-budget animation; near-impossible to review, and for a select audience only.

     - Update

September 07, 2005 The title of this CD gives you a fairly good idea of what goes on in the music. This grouping - led by Jascha Oetz on contrabass with Andreas Wagner on Tenor sax and Greg Stuart on drums - cruise along with a sense of paranormal improv communication that generally makes the best free music. The moods shift from dense, staccato aggression to thoughtful etudes with a strong connective thread running through it all. One of the most interesting things about this release is that the instruments each occupy equal space within the music. That is to say that the role of a lead player is blurred to the point that one has to deal with the music as an integrated whole, with ideas rising and developing within the trio rather than a soloist with accompanying players. Lots of imagination, split-second timing and great communication make this a fine example of spontaneous music performance.

     - Nilan Perera, Exclaim! Canada

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