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PHILIP ZOUBEK prepared piano

1 - MEAN MACHINE - 25:38
2 - LAB 4 - 3:14
3 - PLEXO - 26:32
4 - PLAFOND - 4:26

Digital concert recording made in Brussels (L’Archiduc)
by Michaël W Huon - 2007 November 11
Total time 60:06

All previously unissued


Excerpts from sleeve notes:

Once, during a concert intermission, I looked at a CD awaiting its buyer on the CD stall. It seemed anonymous and unimportant, adorned by a bright red monochrome abstract painting looking cheap on the cover. The title NOBODY’S MATTER BUT OUR OWN reminded me that there are still some unknowns in the process of free improvisation, and no one knows better than the performer himself, who is all the while a strong and creative personality. One of the musicians involved was just standing by my side and I immediately felt that the man became 'inside' - very sincerely proud of this special work - when I opened the tray. So, as improvised music is a matter of sincerity, I bought it immediately, and I did well. I think it is now sold-out after having been poorly distributed. NOBODY’S MATTER BUT OUR OWN is one of the most underrated recordings of European improvised music, issued by a low profile German label, NurNichtNur.

I was stunned by the depth of the overall sound of the duo music of veteran trombonist Paul Hubweber and young pianist Philip Zoubek and the empathy created by them. The subtle way that the innards of the prepared grand piano were moved with acute rhythmic sense and the spontaneous mapping of an architecture is rare to find even among the most accomplished improv practitioners. It sounded at first as good as an ideal and hypothetical recording that the late Paul Rutherford and Fred Van Hove should have made or would have issued as a duo. I had once witnessed a nice tandem of Fred and the late great Albert Mangelsdorff, and subsequently Fred and Paul’s duets, in Brussels and Ghent in 1977 and 1986 respectively. Derek Bailey once described Rutherford‘s solo music (the famous GENTLE HARM LP now on Emanem 4019) as 'the genuine article', and that 'it's a combination of the easy, the difficult and the impossible'. And when I heard Hubweber’s focus on single sounds, Derek’s words immediately sprung to mind.

The trombone became the wind instrument par excellence of the European improvised 'answer' to free jazz in some of its more original statements. The late Albert Mangelsdorff and Paul Rutherford, the Bauer brothers, Connie and Hannes, Radu Malfatti are familiar names, but you should not forget such pioneers as Giancarlo Schiaffini, who performed with Nuova Consonanza, Willem Van Manen, a stalwart of the Willem Breuker Collektief, Nick Evans and Malcolm Griffiths who, with Malfatti, blew in Chris McGregor‘s groups. This blooming was paralleled by the uprising keyboard generation of Van Hove, Schweizer, Schlippenbach, Dauner, Mengelberg, Riley, Tippett, etc….

Born in 1954, Paul Hubweber began to freely improvise very early and to organise improvised gigs while still in his teens. After having played guitar, drums and double bass, he went to a music shop in order to try two 'serious' instruments: a bass clarinet and a trombone. The brass clicked immediately with his mind and body and he fell in love with the 'tailgate' instrument forever. Living and working in Moers, Paul Hubweber was actually involved in the Moers festival‘s organisation – he is even credited for his technical work on the sound of an Anthony Braxton album issued by Ring Records. At that time, he was still practicing the trombone everyday to hone his chops.

During the seventies and eighties, Paul Rutherford, Gunther Christmann and Radu Malfatti specifically developed a whole new music in solo performances and group improvisations of the so-called 'non-idiomatic' species. It is noteworthy that all three were intensely involved with percussionist Paul Lovens. Since 2001, Paul Hubweber and the percussionist have made a fascinating trio with bass player John Edwards, PaPaJo (Emanem 4076). If this moniker sounds a bit fatherly, it is no doubt that Paul’s music is deeply informed by the three older trombonists while having developed a very personal voice and also investigated the jazz tradition. For practicing, he plays many Mangelsdorff tunes, Charlie Parker standards and his own transcriptions of the Cello Suites of Johann-Sebastian Bach. But as you can hear, his solo performances included in his self-produced LÜRIX + PARANOISE and TROMBONEOS (both on NNN) have the same feeling of freshness, innocence, invention and immediacy that permeates Paul Rutherford’s seventies recordings, and remembrances of Radu Malfatti’s air implosions with Stephan Wittwer (UND? on FMP) and NEWS FROM THE SHED (Emanem 4121).

Paul Hubweber plays as greatly as his elder colleagues, and his music is full of real meaning using all the possibilities deep in the logic of the instrument. In his mid-fifties, Paul Hubweber has always been a free-improvisation activist, deeply bound up with the values and sounds carried down the years by this way of making music. Doing many jobs to survive, he never stopped playing and performing throughout his decades in the relative underground of the Rhenish improvising community, until he was fortunately noticed in the company of Paul Lovens and the late Peter Kowald some ten years ago. Among the lifelong partners who shared his views and beliefs, you find the great double bassists Ulrich Philipp and Georg Wolf, the radical pianist Martin Theurer, percussionists Michael Vorfeld and Wolfgang Schliemann, guitarists Hainer Wörmann and Erhard Hirt, saxophonists Georg Wissell, Dirk Marwedel, electronician Ulli Böttcher and the ever very supportive Paul Lytton.

Quite a newcomer in the improvising scene, Austrian born pianist Philip Zoubek shows a very strong personality and a fascinating control of the piano, surely the instrument most charged with the weight of European tradition and western musical culture. He is currently living in Köln, and among his music partners one can find bassist Achim Tang, trombonist Mathias Muche, Thomas Lehn, Frank Gratkowski and compatriot Franz Hauzinger. It would be premature to try to point out the influences and starting points of Zoubek pianistic approach. He is still in the early stages of his musical development and this young man, born in 1978, is as intelligent as his sensitivity is deep, so that it would be premature to create a pigeon-hole to hold his work.

Although his partner in the duo is carrying the story and problems of the improvised trombone, it is very difficult and fruitless to locate Philip on the map of the piano in free-improvisation. Please forget Van Hove, Schweizer or Tippett! For example, he certainly has a completely different view and sensitivity than those of Sophie Agnel (CAPSIZING MOMENTS Emanem 5004) or John Tilbury, whose discography is quite extensive.

To my taste, this duo of Paul Hubweber and Philip Zoubek is as great as anything that the likes of Parker, Bailey, Rutherford, Christmann, Van Hove, Lovens and Lytton ever did, performing at their best. May I remind everyone when Parker, Lovens, Lytton, Christmann and many others revolutionised our ideas and perceptions of musical improvisation, they were even younger than Philip Zoubek is now (32)? So, don’t wait until his hair turns grey (which, I think, also applies to some other young players).



Excerpts from reviews:

"A fine free improvisation duo. Nice interactions, innovative techniques, unfailing creativity. Mean Machine (25 minutes) is worth the price of admission."


"I can guarantee that if you listen to this once, you'll want (need?) to listen to it half a dozen more times in quick succession: there's so much going on and the interplay between the two musicians so breathtaking, you won't believe it. It makes for a great follow up to the duo's earlier Nur Nicht Nur disc, NOBODY'S MATTER BUT OUR OWN - Hubweber's just as impressive and Zoubek even more so. He plays the piano with the same subtlety and precision as he prepares it, and Michael Huon's splendid live recording captures every minute detail - from the musicians and also at times from the world around them - to perfection. Great record, great bar - check them both out."


"The joint effort exercised by Paul Hubweber and Philip Zoubek in this CD will reward attentive ears with a multitude of gifts. Despite the 24 years of age difference between the performers, the music produced sounds as they have been playing together for their entire life, and the couple seems to enjoy every single minute of the experience.

Hubweber is still too often overlooked during superficial calls to mind of the greatest trombone players from the last four decades. Influenced by Albert Mangelsdorff, continuously (and rather unjustly) compared to Paul Rutherford, the German virtuoso expresses equal doses of joy and maturity in a highly individual style. His phrases are always so beautiful to hear, rubbery and sinuous yet determined, a clever sense of humour pervading the improvisations in many instances. However, when that sensation risks to endanger the seriousness of the work he stops and contemplates; the pensive mood doesn't stay, though, and a strained vocalism is utilised in conjunction with the rest of the valve-man organism for additional degrees of regurgitation and grunts.

Zoubek - here active on a prepared instrument - is a refined explorer of the sudden, but also an able evaluator of an instantaneous structural development. Not really comparable to other pianists, he acts percussively on the low register, then realises that six or seven different sequences of unwelcoming figures are needed before operating on the strings as to manipulate a giant elastic zither generating evocative parabolas enriched by a ringing-and-zinging luminosity. The forces are distributed with admirable balanced sensibility across (and within) the piano's components, allowing the Austrian to compress a potential factor of timbral predominance into the more suitable role of splendidly intertwined correlative voice.

All the issues tackled by the artists converge in well-definite points of total focus. Through various phases full of intense reciprocal listening, suspended gravity and sparkling bubbles of enthusiastic conversation, an hour passes like a wink. At the end, we're sure of having listened to one of the best improvisation albums of 2010."


"The pairing of Hubweber and Zoubek is a happy one. There is no suggestion of a senior partner-junior partner relationship here. From the off, they are tuned into each other's thought waves, at times simultaneously locking into the same tempo in a way that is uncanny. But they do not stay locked together throughout; there is much of variety and contrast in their playing across the album. For instance, on the opening piece, Mean Machine, there is a prolonged period of call-and-response, in which neither is obviously the leader, as phrases go back and forth, slowly evolving.

From time to time Hubweber unleashes those rich, fruity sustained notes for which his instrument is renowned; they slowly build and then decay. At other times, the trombonist lets off rapidly-articulated note clusters, with Zoutek managing to slip into the interstices of his playing. The overall effect is breathtaking.

Frustratingly, every year there are one or two recordings that arrive just too late to be included in those year-end 'best of lists'. For 2010, this was one of them. More, please."


"Paul Hubweber has crafted a dense, all encompassing style as he voices his improvised music through his instrument of choice: the all-but-human trombone. Hubweber breathes like a yogi in complete control of the breath that he takes into his lungs. He then expels it all in a circular manner, quite miserly actually, as he annunciates speech-like, blowing fabulous melody and harmony all rolled into one. His mechanisations sometimes drift plaintively and horizontally, then soar majestically as he coaxes the Variation always forward. Hubweber, then manipulates music on two planes - the horizontal, melodic one, which again he embellishes with multiple notes, triads and stunning leaps of fancy and the vertical chorale in which he creates harmonies that groan, growl and burst forth brilliantly over the melodic impetus of the music.

The trombonist's excursions find a willing and equally creative partner in pianist Philip Zoubek, whose prepared piano is a match for the intervallic leaps of Hubweber's trombone. In Mean Machine both men seem to leap off a platform created by bebop only to fly in the face of convention thereafter. The smouldering mid-section of this piece is a perfect vehicle for pianist and trombonist to hiss and spit at each other as they urge the music forward with longer leaps into the depths of the unknown. Plexo is connected with the premier longer variation only in as much as the interplay between piano and trombone is almost butterfly like, both instruments flapping and soaring in flights of unison as they explore themes together This is an important album in the oeuvre of improvised music."



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