The Hausquartett Explores Exquisite Cadavers!

Hausquartett cover

GRAB-BAUMANN-HÄMMERLI-RENOLD: Cadavre Exquis Nos. 2 & 4. BAUMANN: Grossvater Var. 111. GRAB: Schoggimuss. BAUMANN: Cadavre Exquis No. 5, Part I plus Annexe / Hausquartett: Christopher Grab, t-sax/a-sax/bs-cl; Christoph Baumann, pno; Hämi Hämmerli, bs; Tnny Renold, dm / Leo Records CD LR 932

The only negatives I can give to this CD are that 1) it’s way too short at only 38: 58, and 2) the liner notes are in German only, a language I don’t read or speak.

I tried to translate part of it, at least, using my favorite online translator, Deep-L Translate, which usually does a good job, but apparently they, like me, have no clue how German grammar is supposed to go, because this is what I got – and even the parts of it I could understand meant little or nothing to me in relation to the music:

It was raining, an afternoon of handicrafts was ordered for the children. Scissors, folding leg, glue, pens and paper: snippets gathered under the table like traces of silent despair. Resistance was futile.

We had four siblings to “herd”, a nanny once or twice a week. The girl wore a white lab coat and – do I remember correctly? – a kind of nurse’s cap tucked into her hair. There was supervision, no Ritalin yet. The young woman (at that time a “Fraulein” was possible) was called like a children’s princess, maybe Sophia, and was sweet & fine like in a fairy tale.

But, and this was the main thing, she had a father who was the director of those turbulent amusements, which were called here Herbstnesse: with Ferris wheel, merry-go-rounds and ghost train, cotton candy and the call “Wand Si mal schüüsse?”; with the show booth of the magician, who promised to cut up a woman from tarpaulins inside his windingen theater. Still she stood, sequined and intact, next to him. By the way, even as a whole body for the boy’s eyes already confusing enough, her hip play, her pressing bosom.

Update: After trying and failing to access the English version of this booklet using the website address provided, a friend of mine tried to scan the QR code with her cell phone but couldn’t get anything. But eventually I went to the main Hausquartett website, where I found it. Four your edification and mine, then, here is the English translation of the liner notes.

The best I could derive from this is that the music is supposed to pertain to kids’ games, merry-go-rounds and other diversions, though the music is anything but childlike or childish. Unlike a .lot of “free jazz” nowadays, the music contained herein actually has a discernible meter most of the time and is often tonal, but the Hausquartett plays with both to such an extent that the end result seems to run freely and fluidly, reminding me of the way Charles Mingus wrote music. Much of it actually swings, yet none of it is shallow or ephemeral. The quartet members keep interest up by frequently changing the tempo, using rootless chords underneath, and playing around the edges of tonality. What often sounds simple is actually quite complex, just not the most harmonically modern jazz, but to be honest I really appreciated their playfulness and sense of tonality after slogging through the last two Ivo Perelman CDs.

In fact, I liked this music so much that, about halfway into the first track, I just turned my “critic-o-meter” off, sat back, and simply enjoyed it. In addition to reminding me of Mingus, some of it also reminded me of mid-‘60s Sonny Rollins, when he was in the most playful phase of his career. Of course I hadn’t a clue what the German words intoned in the background (rather quietly, as if the microphone was on the other side of the room), but such moments were infrequent and didn’t interrupt my enjoyment.

And when was the last time you heard a jazz album that was both creating AND enjoyable? For me, it’s been years. Albums like these simply don’t come along all that often. Even when things got a little more mysterious, even a bit eerie, as in the bass clarinet opening of the second track, I had no fear that they would leave me in the lurch, and they didn’t. By the 2:50 mark of track 2, the piano trio was swinging, albeit a bitonal theme with just an edge of menace to it. The best description I can make of this album is that it is mostly happy jazz on the surface, but like Alice’s adventures in Wonderland, there are sinister overtones that let you know that thigns aren’t quite what you think they are.

Thus even if you don’t understand the booket or the spoken words here and there during these tunes, I guarantee that you’ll get a kick out of this album. It’s creative music that is also fun to listen to. I loved it!

—© 2023 Lynn René Bayley

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6 thoughts on “The Hausquartett Explores Exquisite Cadavers!

    • I don’t have anything that can scan that box of squiggles which you call a “QR code,” and a friend of mine who has such a scanner on her cell phone tried to but it didn’t work. In addition, the website address given, leads to “Unfortunately, the page you are looking for no longer exists or access is not authorized.” But I did eventually go the Hausquartett’s website and, by poking around, found them. I have since updated my review, uploaded the PDF file, and provided a link for people to read the notes in English.


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