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Joscha Oetz - "Vieles Ist Eins"

Consisting of solos and duos, Vieles Ist Eins is purely improvised music by Joscha Oetz, who plays contrabass on every track, either alone or accompanied by Barre Phillips (contrabass), Andreas Wagner (tenor saxophone) or Greg Stuart (percussion). Though there are never more than two musicians playing at a time per track, it certainly sounds like there are more. These pieces of music are akin to sitting next to someone with a schizophrenic multi-personality disorder engaging in rambling monologues while assuming assorted demeanours. As unappealing as this may seem, the music is quite good. Oetz and his accompanying performers are skilled musicians; their adeptness is noticeable as they articulate their musical whims and melodic turn of phrases. A culmination of live and studio recordings, Oetz deals with countering absences of melody, or any other form of structural frameworks, to reach for something more elusive, yet still manages to instil a strong emotional impact.

     - I. Khider, Exclaim! canada

Oetz is a talented contrabassist operating in the San Diego area who specializes un solos and duos in the tradition of Kowald and Guy. Using prepared bas, extended techniques, and a keen ear for dynamics, Oetz relishes in the creative process.

The disc opens with a recording from Oetz'a very first public appearance in San Diego, having recently moved from Cologne. In it, he joyfully treats his instrumen tas a percussive device (with small sticks being deployed near the bridge). "Konstantin" and "Moorzahn" are more thematic pieces, where Oetz audibly pursues and transforms specific ideas throughout a performance.

Alongside these solo pieces are even finer duos. "Nurdin," the first of several encounters with Barre Phillips, is a beautiful study in singing overtones and glissandi. "Bajoife" is thornier, getting into the more acoustic areas of the music but maintaining the grace which Phillips so often brings to the proceedings. "toqua" is more propulsive, and has a real immediacy, while the arco pairing "Zweins" is quite remote. The two are very simpatico, though perhaps inevitably it's Phillips who compels a bit more.

Of the duos, though, I was intrigued by the piece "Sipan," which pairs Oetz with his longtime partner Wagner. There are some great moments here with Wagner trying to blend his overtones in with Oetz's woody sounds., but it felt incomplete (and indeed the liners indicate that it was excerpted from a larger performance along with Rajesh Mehta and Steve Noole). "Frieden Bitte" may be the richest course of all, revealing not only a fine dialogue but a tremendously subtle percussionist (imagine Fritz Hauser but slightly less busy, and combined with the rough abstraction of, say,Burkhard Beins). All in all this release is recommended to fans of European improvised bass music.

     - Jason Bivins, Cadence

German born, but relocated to San Diego in 2000, contrabassist Joscha Oetz (yet another Trummerflora member) offers a set of solo and duo improvisations recorded during live performances between 1998-2001.

The contrabass has a powerful presence and Oetz works his instrument with delicacy, abuse, and all points in between. The manipulation of stringed instruments through various scratching, attack, and percussive techniques produces a surprising array of sounds, and Oetz does so in a style that explores the wide range of this territory while at all times retaining a sense of the "musical". This is apparent on his three solo tracks as well as five duo tracks with fellow contrabassist Barre Phillips. Oetz and Phillips function well as a team but are at their best when playing duel-like contrasting parts, some of which get powerfully aggressive. "Nurdim" is ROCK music for free-improv fans... head-banging for the avant-garde. "Toqua" is similarly potent but with more of a fusion feel. Fantastic playing and a great range of sounds that thud like piledrivers into the eardrums and chest, especially when they're cranking on those ultra low bass This is a highly interesting disc for a number of reasons. I'm not familiar with the contrabassist in question, but i certainly like what he's doing here -- and even more to my liking, he explains his thinking and provides clues on the recordings in the liner notes. They're certainly helpful in rendering certain aspects of the recording a bit less cryptic. For instance, the violent crashing about of "Musica Alemana" turns out to be a live performance of Oetz doing disturbed things in the name of satire (some cryptic German thing, an in-joke maybe) using a prepared bass with round wooden sticks between the strings near the bridge. Details such as these help define the setting of these songs. Oetz, originally from Cologne, now living in San Diego, has apparently been a fixture on the European improv scene for a while now and has even worked with Anna Homler, a plus in my book. I guess i'm a dumbass for having not heard of him until now.... Over the course of this disc, Oetz presents three pieces solo and the rest in duos with Barre Phillips (contrabass), Andreas Wagner (tenor sax), and Greg Stuart (percussion); most of the pieces are with Phillips. On the duets, the interplay between Oetz and the other musicians is fluid and dynamic, often highly complex, a steady stream of sounds on tracks like "Bajoife." The lone duet with Wagner, "Sipan," turns out to be one of the most experimental: lurching stabs at melody and rhythm, stopping and starting, often hinting at a path that might be taken then abruptly abandoning it... a sound both broken and bizarrely rhythmic, like the heaving of a crippled snake. The tracks i find most interesting, though, are the ones where he's teamed with Phillips -- the two contrabasses dance around each other, often smothered in reverb, so their songs really hop, especially "Toqua," which eventually evolves into a grotesque parody of a waltz (well, if you squint real hard) before devolving back to the interplay of contrabasses again.

The duet with percussionist Greg Stuart, "Frieden Bitte," is one that definitely catches my attention: Oetz doing strange things with his contrabass while Stuart lays down hollowed-out percussion, with a sound much like the off-camera doings of a bizarre ritual in progress. Another duet with Phillips, "Roronra," makes it obvious that there's a much more melodic tonal center happing when the two contrabasses do battle. Oetz closes as he opened, with a solo piece -- this one is "Moorzahn," a lumbering and subterranean waltz of sorts accompanied by other rhythmic elements in the background. This is a fine album and it's pleasing to see that a label such as Accretions exists -- and that their packaging is nice as well. Serious musicians with serious presentation, this is a concept of which i greatly approve....

The CD also includes a fiery duo with Andreas Wagner on tenor saxophone, and a banquet of sparse but passionate jazz, and carefully controlled chaos on the 13 minute duo excursion into music and sound with percussionist Greg Stuart. Lots to hear on this set that stands up to repeated listens.

     - Jerry Kranitz , Aural Innovations

This is a highly interesting disc for a number of reasons. I'm not familiar with the contrabassist in question, but i certainly like what he's doing here -- and even more to my liking, he explains his thinking and provides clues on the recordings in the liner notes. They're certainly helpful in rendering certain aspects of the recording a bit less cryptic. For instance, the violent crashing about of "Musica Alemana" turns out to be a live performance of Oetz doing disturbed things in the name of satire (some cryptic German thing, an in-joke maybe) using a prepared bass with round wooden sticks between the strings near the bridge. Details such as these help define the setting of these songs. Oetz, originally from Cologne, now living in San Diego, has apparently been a fixture on the European improv scene for a while now and has even worked with Anna Homler, a plus in my book. I guess i'm a dumbass for having not heard of him until now.... Over the course of this disc, Oetz presents three pieces solo and the rest in duos with Barre Phillips (contrabass), Andreas Wagner (tenor sax), and Greg Stuart (percussion); most of the pieces are with Phillips. On the duets, the interplay between Oetz and the other musicians is fluid and dynamic, often highly complex, a steady stream of sounds on tracks like "Bajoife." The lone duet with Wagner, "Sipan," turns out to be one of the most experimental: lurching stabs at melody and rhythm, stopping and starting, often hinting at a path that might be taken then abruptly abandoning it... a sound both broken and bizarrely rhythmic, like the heaving of a crippled snake. The tracks i find most interesting, though, are the ones where he's teamed with Phillips -- the two contrabasses dance around each other, often smothered in reverb, so their songs really hop, especially "Toqua," which eventually evolves into a grotesque parody of a waltz (well, if you squint real hard) before devolving back to the interplay of contrabasses again.

The duet with percussionist Greg Stuart, "Frieden Bitte," is one that definitely catches my attention: Oetz doing strange things with his contrabass while Stuart lays down hollowed-out percussion, with a sound much like the off-camera doings of a bizarre ritual in progress. Another duet with Phillips, "Roronra," makes it obvious that there's a much more melodic tonal center happing when the two contrabasses do battle. Oetz closes as he opened, with a solo piece -- this one is "Moorzahn," a lumbering and subterranean waltz of sorts accompanied by other rhythmic elements in the background. This is a fine album and it's pleasing to see that a label such as Accretions exists -- and that their packaging is nice as well. Serious musicians with serious presentation, this is a concept of which i greatly approve....

     - Dead Angel

In the group Permanent Flow, bassist Oetz plays with trumpeter Rajesh Mehta, drummer Steve Noble and saxophonist Andreas Wagner. A duet with Wagner on tenor, taken from a Cologne performance by that quartet, is included in this showcase for Oetz's solo and duo playing. Nine other tracks were recorded in California, where he now lives. It features three solos, four duets with bass maestro Barre Phillips and one with percussionist Greg Stuart. Oetz is not a dry technician but a flexible and expressive player questing for eloquence. Needless to say, Phillips delivers a series of object lessons and Oetz is primed to respond in kind.

     - Julian Cowley, The Wire

Free improvisation is the avant-garde's final staging ost before the abyss of raw noise. Joscha plays a contrabass, whatever that is, and makes some extremely terse noises with it. Scrapes, creaks, bowed chords and even the odd note add up to an album that sounds like King Rollo making a snuff film. Very challenging, and we don't say that lightly.

     - Dincan Bell, Muzik

In 2000 Joscha Oetz moved from Cologne to San Diego, where he fell in with the crew that is Trummerflora. With one track from his pre-Diego days, it generally reflects the 'radical change of environment' that has recently stimulated him, though some of these partnerships have evolved over a longer period. His work with the contrabass not only extracts a variety of sounds through plucking bowing tapping, but also includes preparation 'with small round wooden sticks put between the strings close to the bridge' to provide even more percussive effects.

Three solo pieces scattered through the album demonstrate Oetz skill and methods: 'Musica alemana' combines a percussive clattering with standard bowing and rhythmic percussion; the longer 'Konstantin' demonstrates various methods, almost as an exemplar, moving from percussive and short bowing, plucking, more explorative string work; atonal bowing and finally some more mellow work; and 'Moorzahn' closes the album with a jazzy melodic delight.

The bulk of the duos - 5 - are with a collaborator since 1995, Barre Phillips who also plays contrabass. This allows for an exciting display of varied techniques, and each player is in a separate channel, so you can pick them out. 'Nurdim' demonstrates the two players accord as their voices respond to each other, in a piece that has some mournful slow slides and resonating harmony. In 'Bajoife' a plucked duet is percussive and scratchy, and then a bouncing bow draws flute-tones, high bowed wailing and finally fast percussive into a sweet end. Also main plucked, 'Toqua' is drivingly pulsive and melodic, while there is great interplay in 'Zweins' as one bows and the other percusses. And lastly 'Roronra' pops and taps, note runs and pulsing, rapid and rhythmic - all of these tracks demonstrating a fine and subtle communication.

The other two pieces are 'Sipan' with saxophonist Andreas Wagner where the clattering strings and plucked percussive bass weaves through popping sliding and squeaking sax, and a wonderfully extended work ('Friden bitte') with Greg Stuart on percussion which is delicate and gestural, with some more demonstrative sections, but is pure de/light.

This album expanded my understanding and appreciation of what the double bass (as I used to know it) can do - and while it explores atonal and unusual territory it is approachable and enjoyable, made as it is with such joy and spirit, and sequenced in a way that enhances the variations.

     - Jeremy Keens, Ampersand Etcetera

Vieles ist eins presents bassist Joscha Oetz soloing and duetting with percussionist Greg Stuart, saxophonist Andreas Wagner, and bassist Barre Phillips. The improvisations come from various concerts recorded between 1998 and 2001. Halfway through that period Oetz moved from Cologne, Germany to San Diego, California. Yet, this doesn't feel like a transitional album. The artist voices his music firmly and leaves no clue as to the effect his new base of operation has had. In Cologne, Oetz has worked a lot with Phillips. Five of the ten tracks are duets with him. The similarities between mentor and pupil are obvious, nevertheless the younger player establishes his own voice. The slow-paced "Nurdim" and the more feverish "Toqua" constitute highlights. Oetz gets more reflexive when playing solo. In "Konstantin," we can here his young son vocalizing in the audience. He instantly picks up the "contribution," first mimicking it, then developing phrases around it, all without breaking out of the path he was already exploring. But the best track remains his duet with West Coast drummer Stuart. The 13-minute "Frieden Bitte" (the longest piece on this CD) features them looking for a subtle balance between sound and silence. The subtlety of Stuart's playing brings the best out of the bassist who really goes out of his way to meet his level of quiet intensity. Fans of Phillips and Peter Kowald should lend an ear. This album is strong.

     - François Couture, All Music Guide


Through scraping, beating and generally abusing strings of contrabass, JOSCHA OETZ and fellow con spirito-r BARRE PHILLIPS create the ambience of a furtive burgler searching through the dusty and dubious treasures of and old and chaotic junk shop, where one false move may bring teetering piles of books and papers, ancient dirt and generations of spiders crashing down upon the musicians. ANDREAS WAGNER assists here and there to shine a light beam from his tenor saxophone onto the proceedings, while GREG STUART's percussion adds weight to the feeling of possible disaster.

Imagine a gang of malnourished children clambering through a large wardrobe full of stringed instruments, having given up all hope of finding Narnia, trying desperately to find the door back into the real world, climbing and clambering over the hidden orchestra, sometimes panicking, sometimes almost resigned to an eternity in the dusty, airless dark of this strange place.

This reminds me here and there of WHALEMAN in it's indulgent love of deep string sounds - not as a complimentary addition to an orchestral piece - but as-is, solo, unblemished by other, possibly more tuneful instruments - a love of rich deep, almost voice-like sounds.

A meagre indulgence though it is, the music really expands on the one track - "Frieden Bitte" - which features GREG STUART. Which is not to say he should have featured throughout, but his minimal additions make this track perhaps the best piece here. He favours flat bell-like sounds over 'drums' and does not try to introduce rhythm, rather embellishing the existing fog of moodiness.

Where this album truly triumphs is in gaining an atmosphere and never leaving it throughout. Perhaps this is down to the limited sonic possibilities of the instruments used. Whatever the reason, it's a definite strength rather than a weakness.

This is a fine example of acoustic mood music. It never actually delves into the darkest corners of possibility, but is more naturally a night music, to be listened to in a darkened, barely lit environment, rather than a bright Summers day through heardphones with screaming children running past. I guess this review was written under midway conditions (barely lit room between 10am and midday, with curtains closed and only a crazy-but sleepy feline for company).

Another cracking release from ACCRETIONS.

     - Antony Burnham, Metamorphic Journeyman

Back in the 1957, four-string specialist Paul Chambers put out an LP called Bass On Top. Now while bassists Damon Smith and Joscha Oetz are definite team players on these CDs, that title could be used to describe the state of the bass -- hm, another potential title -- in 21st century California.

Smith, a native of Oakland, Calif., has already recorded a series of fine CDs, encompassing a duo with his bass mentor Peter Kowald, and in trios with different saxophonists, drummers and keyboardists. DESERT SWEETS is a souvenir of a visit to the Bay area by Swedish saxophonist/flautist Biggi Vinkeloe -- who recorded with Kowald in the past -- where she was matched with Smith and tuba player Mark Weaver from Albuquerque, NM. Cologne, Germany-born Oetz, moved to San Diego, CA, about 500 miles south of the Bay area, a couple of years ago. Vieles Ist Eins includes three solo bass tracks; one duet with German tenor saxophonist Andreas Wagner; one with local percussionist Greg Stuart; and five with long-time American expatriate, bassist Barre Phillips.

Bustling with interesting improvisations, the two discs illustrate three escalating trends in improvised music. For a start they -- like a high percentage of other exceptional sounds -- were created outside of so-called major American music centres like New York and Los Angles. Both feature an admixture of European and American musicians. And the two highlight non-standard instrumental combinations. This is especially apparent on Smith's disc, where in a way, Weaver's tuba functions as both a rhythm and a solo instrument. An educator, the low brassman works on-and-off with other bands featuring Smith, drummer Dave Wayne of Santa Fe, N.M. and San Diego-based multi-reedman Alan Lechusza.

During the course of the 22(!) tracks on this disc, Weaver shows off his facility in all ranges of his instrument. At times, as on tunes like "Jojoba" he produces a high-pitched ghostly sound as if he was the personification of a child's nightmare, while on other instant compositions such as "Cholla" his tone is mineshaft deep as he rumbles and reverberates in the basso region. He can even turn out falsetto cries that by rights should come from a cornet as he does on "Biting Cactus."

He's versatile as well. Take "Mesquitilla" for example. Here Weaver's phrases are both legato and staccato with his musical output moving from the very bottom of his valves to the very top of his mouthpiece, as Smith bangs his strings for a percussion effect and Vinkeloe ornaments the proceedings.

With the three often functioning as if they were interlocking parts of a single instrument, Smith is as often the percussive force as anyone else. He uses his bow to whack the strings in such a way that they become four reverberating drum skins. He can strum the strings as if he was playing a banjo, pluck them in a traditional jazz manner or create tones that sound as if he's giving them and the bass body a spring cleaning. Elsewhere, as on "Incienso," he scratch away on the strings as if he was a small animal let loose on a telephone wire, while Weaver keeps the mood buoyant by blowing nearly imperceptible tuba lines.

Northern guest Vinkeloe divided her embouchure between flute and alto saxophone. On the former she comes out with a wide, dissonant tone that's slightly sharper than that of most saxophonists'. When expressed it can take up a lot of aural space as on "Yellow Sweetclover." On the other hand, in response to the elephantine tuba rumble and low bass lines, she can put a Middle-Eastern cant to her solos, as on "Utah Juniper."

Flute finds her with a different persona, expressing the sort of gritty respiring in which Rahsaan Roland Kirk and others used to specialize. There's even a time on "Tasajillo" that she seems to be straying into repetitive Energy Music territory in contrast to Weaver's lightly articulation blasts and Smith's percussive ostinato. Overtones that can arise from both her horns are showcased on "Chili Coyote," a near-ballad which unrolls over the soundfield created by swelling low notes from Weaver and constant plucking from Smith. At slightly less than five minutes this number point out one weakness of the recital -- the extreme brevity of the tracks. With some clocking in at barely 11/2 minutes, you wish some themes and techniques had been given longer times to germinate and develop.

Tunes range throughout the time clock on Oetz's disc, with the shortest tracks bass solos. He does leave himself open to ethnic stereotyping on "Música Alemana," the first number which he announces as "German music." Using strings "prepared" with small round wooden sticks inserted between them, close to the bridge, he slashes the instrument and carries the piece forward with the power of an elite panzer division.

Luckily his subsequent solitary displays are less bellicose, with the more-than-seven minutes of "Konstantin" including frequent moments of silence as if he's pausing for thought. Played arco with string reverb, he sounds more than one note at a time and attaches himself more to the New music tradition than he does elsewhere.

Facing percussionist Greg Stuart on the other hand, both quickly get knee deep into EuroImprov, with the drummer utilizing what sounds like chain rattles, palm strokes on his drum heads, pealing bells and ritualistic cymbal pings, plus at one point, the suggestion of Afrocuban percussion. Oetz alternates between scraping out his melodies and concentrating his strings as bass percussion.

Recorded three years before the rest of the album, "Sipan" find the bassist plus saxophonist Wagner in an even more experimental frame of mind. Echoing tongue slaps and squeaks, that culminate in an elongated goose call, characterize the sax work so that Oetz make extensive, colorful use of those sticks between his strings.

Partnerships rather than a duels or tutorials, Oetz's five meetings with Phillips provide an object lesson in all that can be done with eight strings. At times relying on supple romantic legato lines or single bow strokes that produce a unique twanging, the results are most distinctive when each defines his own identity. On "Toqua," for instance, both slink into a pizzicato flamenco mode that after some woody reverb slides into a steady accelerating marchtempo. Soon one is pressing straightahead, while the other is extending the strings away from the bridge and smashing the bow against them.

Alternately, when they're not moving in lockstep with one another on "Roronra," the strumming and picking seemsto resolve itself as one creating the sound of a dobro, while the other creates what a bass guitar would play in surf music.

Song titles on both CDs couldn't be more different, with Smith & Co. honoring flowering plants and Oetz mixing German and Spanish words. Yet both discs are outstanding. Either or both should please bass fanciers, Californians and those interested in modern music.

     - Ken Waxman, Jazz Weekly

Le musicien allemand Joscha Oetz, qui réside aujourd'hui à San Diego en Californie, reconnaît modestement, dans les liner notes qui accompagnent cet album, que si la musique lui procure un grand bonheur et une satisfaction réelle, elle est aussi à l'origine d'une remise en question permanente. L'album consiste en une série de solos et de duos avec Barre Phillips, Andreas Wagner et Greg Stuart, c'est-à-dire qu'il reprend les deux formes de jeu pour lesquelles l'attention, la concentration mais aussi le plaisir sont les plus forts. Joscha excelle dans la mise sous tension, dans cette façon de se rapprocher de l'instrument pour véritablement extérioriser ses pensées les plus profondes. La musique devient en ce sens le porte-parole des humeurs du musicien. La rencontre avec Barre Phillips, on peut le sentir ici, a été essentielle pour le contrebassiste et les quatre pièces qu'il joue avec le vétéran américain sont les meilleures surprises de cet album. La musique de Joscha mérite une écoute attentive car elle révèle véritablement un artiste en devenir.

     - Sebastien Moig, JazzoSphere


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