We‘re Playing In Here ?

Featuring: Altschul Barry

Musicians on the recording

Gebhard Ullmann - tenor saxophone, bass clarinet
Steve Swell - trombone
Hilliard Greene - double bass
Barry Altschul - drums

Recording track list

Side A

Side B
SKETCH #4 (Swell)

NoBusiness Records NBLP 149
Release year - 2022
Edition of 300 copies

Credits and release info

  • Recorded on 11th April, 2007 at Park West Studio by Jim Clouse

  • Compositions by Steve Swell are published by Steve Swell Music (BMI)
  • Compositions by Gebhard Ullmann are registered with GEMA
  • Mastered by Arūnas Zujus at MAMAstudios
  • Design by Oskaras Anosovas

Reviews and articles


Stuart Broomer - New York City Jazz Record

Gebhard Ullmann and Steve Swell are both wideranging musicians who have played across a variety of forms and groupings in their careers. Ullmann’s varied projects include the recent mikroPLUS, a quartet exploring quarter-tone improvisation, and the longrunning Clarinet Trio, a group devoted to the clarinet in its various ranges. Swell has led the big band Nation of We and conducted distinctive explorations of the musical terrain of composers Olivier Messiaen and Luciano Berio. In contrast to such conceptual projects, the quartet that Ullmann and Swell have co-led through the years is a much more traditional grouping, a free jazz quartet with its improvisations rooted in diverse themes. The quartet debuted with Desert Songs and Other Landscapes (CIMP, 2004), while this studio recording dates from 2007. It’s a band of substantial power, from the rhythm section of bassist Hilliard Greene and recently-turned octogenarian veteran drummer Barry Altschul to the forceful front-line match of Swell’s trombone with Ullmann’s outsize tenor voice and bass clarinet. It’s also a band that interacts. The opening “Planet Hopping on a Thursday Afternoon”, the first of four Swellcomposed themes, moves from the head to the collective improvising of the two horns before a soloist emerges. Swell’s forceful bluster, sometimes reminiscent of the late Roswell Rudd, his former teacher, is well matched to Ullmann’s volatile tenor, with its constant shifts in timbre including vocalic honks and slurs. After an explosive conclusion to “Planet Hopping”, “Mariposa” slows the movement down considerably, dropping the rhythm section’s volume to a whisper for a sparsely accompanied Ullmann oration on bass clarinet, with a range of diverse sounds comparable to his tenor work, and a solo from Greene filled with subtle detail. The other pieces, too, have a distinct character, from the rapid, boppish stops and starts of “Sketch #4” to the diverse dimensions of the ballad-tempo title track, which is rich in quiet, sometimes near-mumbled, collective improvisations. Swell’s muted trombone complements Ullmann’s varied palette, which ranges from gasps and squawks to a throaty saxophone voice. Ullmann’s concluding “Kleine Figuren #1” is built on an infectious repeated horn pattern and returns the recording to its beginnings with an Altschul solo as complex and animated as it is secure. It’s an effective conclusion to a dynamic essay in group interplay that more than deserves its long-delayed release.

Paul Acquaro - Free Jazz Collective

This, and the next recording, feature the long-standing musical relationship between Ullmann and NYC based trombonist Steve Swell. The rest of the quartet on We're Playing in Here ? is rounded out by New Yorkers too, namely bassist Hilliard Greene and drummer Barry Altschul. This dynamic quartet has at least one other recording, Desert Song (CIMP, 2004). We're Playing in Here ? came out last summer, although it was recorded back in 2007. While in a sense an archival recording, it sounds as if could have been made last week. The album begins with an drum solo from Altschul, an unorthodox and bold start. Soon Greene is laying down a solid groove oriented bass line and the 'front-line' joins with the tandem melody of Swell's 'Planet Hopping on a Thursday Afternoon.' The upbeat track then opens up with a looping, driving rhythm while Ullmann and Swell deliver at first  simultaneous melodies, and then split off individually. The solid, pulsating support gives Ullmann, and then Swell, a real chance to just let loose. 'La Mairposa,' another composition from Swell, follows an undulating path consisting of rapid scales that run headlong into long, expressive passages. Ullmann gives his bass clarinet a workout, effortlessly switching between extended tones and sudden squawks. The title track - another composition from the trombonist - answers its own question. Whether or not it is an expression of negative or positive wonder - the inspiration for the title is not revealed - the group explores the here with purposeful vigor. The album closes with Ullmann's quirky contribution 'Kleine Figuren #1.' Swell and Ullmann once again offer a tangle of melodies while Altschul and Greene lay down a solid, non-repetitive foundation - a fine free-jazz closer to an excellent recording.


We‘re Playing In Here ? -

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