Up and Out

August, 2019
CD Digipack
Up and Out

Founded in 2009 by Harri Sjöström, UP AND OUT is a pure Present-Time-Composing project. The variable geometry of the ensemble fosters sparkling line-ups among PTC legendary pioneers and named representatives of the international improvised music scene.

For this concert at Galerie Nord, Berlin, Harri Sjöström invited violinist and composer Philipp Wachsmann. Their fruitful collaboration started in 1980 and remained active since then. In this live recording, Matthias Bauer, Emilio Gordoa and Dag Magnus Narvesen round off the promising constellation delivering a remarkable performance.

Five musical and creative personalities, coming from five different countries, represent three generations of inspired music making, joining here to share joyful acting and to take off into the unknown.



Robert Jannapollo

Up And Out is an improvising group founded by reed player Harri Sjostrom in 2009. Basically, it’s Sjostrom and whoever he has invited to play with him in a “Present – Time – Composing” project. This Up And Out release consists of music recorded at a concert at Galerie Nord in Berlin in January, 2018. This time Sjostrom invit- ed an international assemblage: violinist / electronics Philipp Wachsmann, a veteran of Britain’s free improvis- ing scene since the 1970s, Mexican vibraphonist Emilio Gordoa and Norwegian drummer Dag Magnus Navesen who recorded with Sjostrom in the Move Quintet and German bassist Matthias Bauer has played with him in various groupings. Suffice it to say that these musicians’ paths have crossed with each other at some point over the past few years. And the listener is fortunate that this particular aggregation has been assembled.

Basically, the group freely improvised over four lengthy tracks. While the final track “Three Draft Pistons” is credited to Wachsmann, it is an “update” of a piece he wrote in 1980 that involved improvising musicians to play over pre-recorded electronic sounds.

What makes this recording so good is the instrumentation Sjostrom assembled. The presence
of Wachsmann’s violin and Gordoa’s vibes are unique textures in improvised units. The music is spacious, intricate and well-detailed. Part of it is due to the instrumentation. But another major part is that these
are seasoned players from this milieu and don’t feel the need to say everything at once. On the opening track, Sjostrom, the leader, doesn’t play until the three-minute mark and then while his entry is quiet and subtle, it’s
also very dramatic. Throughout the four pieces the music swells and ebbs like the best free improvisation and there’s always something interesting happening, whether it be a unique textural interlude, a hidden “melody”
that appears from the violin, a rhythmic element that suddenly emerges and then, just as abruptly disappears. Because of that it’s a recording this listener feels compelled to put on regularly. Up And Out is a very worthwhile endeavor. 

Alias-Il Manifesto
Guido Festinese

Registrazione alla Galerie Nord di Berlino del Gennaio 2018: comprende la suite Up and Out e Three draft pistons scritta Wachsmann, violinista e specialista di live electronic, un lavorodel 1980 che prende le mosse da Duchamp, e prevede anche proiezioni su sculture contemporanee. Una reunion sfavillante di menti rimarle della musica improvvisata radicale europea, con sassofoni, vibrafono, batteria, contrabbasso, violino, elettronica. Grande tensione poetica, grandi esiti.

Jazz Word
Ken Waxman

Two extended and two shorter improvisations recorded by a multi-national cast highlight the newest iteration of the Up and Out ensemble. Organized by Finnish saxophonist Harri Sjöström in 2009, since then the make-up of the group has been fluid. This Berlin concert for instance cantered on the violin and live-electronics of London-based Philipp Wachsmann, who has worked with Sjöström since the early 1980s. Demonstrating the German capital’s internationalism, are the other players, all like Sjöström Berlin residents, but only bassist Matthias Bauer is German. Drummer Dag Magnus Narvesen is Norwegian and vibraphone player Emilio Gordoa is from Mexico.

Compensating for the absence of a chordal instrument, it’s the vibist whose metal-bar tremors help create the slow-moving and atmospheric exposition of the three-part suite that takes up most of the CD. Amplified by reed squeaks, and arco microtones divided between low-pitched sweeps from Bauer and higher-pitched ones from Wachsmann, the narrative is built up with tension-inducing trills and flutters, reaching specific definition on “Up and Out – Two” and “Up and Out – Three”. 

Recurrent kettle-drum like ruffs from Narvesen, coupled with Gordoa’s vibraphone clangs and a widening ostinato from Bauer defines the track’s ever-shifting anchor. Meanwhile scraps of spiccato string jumps and sprawling variations define the themes. While the saxophonist’s light-toned peeps are infrequent and often lost in the sound miasma, his ability to pump out pinched hunter’s horn-like lines with mutes are part of a memorable duet with the fiddler’s jagged variations early on the first track. Paced with percussion insets which take on wooden nerve beats and bell-like resonation, “Up and Out – Two” attains a stentorian crescendo during its penultimate sequence, After Wachsmann injects some 19th Century-like romantic string sprawls the piece climaxes by melding that motif with reed smears and vibe clunks. Taking up the narrative at greater length, “Up and Out – Three” is more long-lined, with gunshot-like drum strokes, ratcheting string sweeps and contrapuntal reed textures giving it a harder edge. Again the splayed polyphony finally reaches a contrapuntal climax involving all the instruments, though it’s violin squeaks which predominate as they arc over the others’ sounds. 

Prominent as improvisations without defining structures, Up and Out can be appreciated as a model of how veteran and younger improvisers are committed to a common goal of sound exploration and elaboration.

Sands Zine
Etero Genio

… Nell’ensemble Up And Out, combriccola nordica che comprende anche il contrabbassista tedesco Matthias Bauer, il batterista norvegese Dag Magnus Narvesen, il violinista inglese Philipp Wachsmann, e fa eccezione nella presenza del vibrafonista messicano Emilio Gordoa, il gioco degli incastri è più semplice e più complesso allo stesso tempo. Più semplice perché la tavolozza dei colori a disposizione è maggiore e più complesso perché più elevato è il numero dei colori e più complicata appare l’operazione atta a delineare un puzzle dalle fattezze logiche e ben definite. I cinque non sembrano comunque avere particolari problemi d’intesa, e i loro arti si muovono come tentali di un’unica piovra. Il grosso del lavoro è anche qui espresso in una suite in tre parti, registrata in concerto e accreditata come composizione istantanea ai 5 strumentisti. A margine un brano firmato dal solo Wachsmann e basato sulle annotazioni di Duchamp a proposito della sua opera “The Large Glass”. Da un ensemble formalmente tradizionale (ricalca quello del dolphiano “Out To Lunch” con il violino al posto della tromba) esce fuori un disco niente affatto usuale, nel quale la musica non si sviluppa per fraseggi condotti al di sopra di un ritmo ma procede per pennellate, in un continuo alternarsi di impasti volto a mutare il colore dell’insieme. Più che a un dipinto sembra di stare dinnanzi a uno schermo dove le immagini provenienti da più proiettori variano seguendo il gioco delle somme-sottrazioni. In Three Draft Pistons è invece avvertibile una strutturazione delineata a priori…

Jean-Michel Van Schouwburg

Le remarquable saxophoniste soprano Gianni Mimmo propose sur son label Amirani la musique d’un groupe rassemblé par un autre saxophoniste soprano d’envergure, le finlandais Harri Sjöström, coupable d’avoir succédé finalement à Jimmy Lyons auprès de Cecil Taylor. Invité spécialement pour ce concert, le violoniste Philipp Wachsmann avec qui Sjöström joue « on and off » depuis 1980, entre autres avec Paul Lovens & Paul Rutherford dans Quintet Moderne, entretient une relation en chassé-croisé elliptique avec le saxophoniste durant ce concert. À la contrebasse, Matthias Bauer, le frère des deux trombonistes Conny et Hannes (R.I.P), le fin batteur Dag Magnus Norvesen et l’intriguant vibraphoniste Emilio Gordoa, tous musiciens basés à Berlin, LA ville de la musique improvisée en Europe. Initiant leur rencontre sous forme de tentative de prise de contact, le quintet met une bonne dizaine de minutes à se chauffer, à instiller des réactions et des propositions et, petit à petit, une tension s’installe, l'énergie se dégage. Le percussionniste choisit ses angles de frappe et ses rebonds, le bassiste secoue la vibration des cordes, tandis que les jeux respectifs de Phil et Harri, s’interpénètrent, se font de curieux échos, tournoient ou jouent à chat perché. Les sons s’étirent ou se précipitent et la musique devient grave, légère, … volutes, pointillisme, miettes électroniques, atmosphère irréelle tissée par le vibraphone. Le saxophoniste est insaisissable, le violoniste échappe à la gravitation, le cliquetis des baguettes sur les peaux et le métal active les échanges…  Somme toute, un bon concert basé sur l’écoute, l’interaction, la lisibilité instrumentale et  la participation égalitaire pour chaque musicien à la fois soliste et musicien collectif. À écouter car il y a de bonnes choses.

Avant Music News
Daniel Barbiero

The cosmopolitan nature of improvised music has been an established fact for decades now. Two new recordings show improvisation providing a common meeting ground for musicians from North and South America, Europe and Africa.

Double the Brim features the international quintet of Canadian pianist Karoline Leblanc, Brazilian saxophonist Yedo Gibson, and trumpeter Luís Vicente, cellist Miguel Mira and drummer Paolo J. Ferreira Lopes of Portugal. The group play an emphatic, expansive improvised music informed by classic free jazz. Although there are times when lead voices break through the collective sound, the majority of the music consists of an urgent polyphony in which foreground and background exchange places fluidly and one musician’s solo line imperceptibly mutates into an embellishment of another’s. Leblanc’s hyperkinetic pianism and Ferreira Lopes’ energetic drumming provide a solid foundation for these six intense tracks.

Like the ensemble on Double the Brim, Up and Out is a quintet, this time of five musicians from five different countries. The group was assembled ten years ago by Berlin-based, Finnish-born soprano and sopranino saxophonist Harri Sjöström and includes violinist Philipp Wachsmann, a native of Uganda; the Mexican vibraphonist Emilio Gordoa; double bassist Matthias Bauer, from Germany; and the Norwegian drummer Dag Magnus Narvesen.

In contrast to Double the Brim’s hot expressionism, Up and Out’s style of improvisation is emotionally cooler and concerned with space. The music is made up of collective improvisation oriented toward timbral interplay and changeable textural densities. Much of the textural drama comes from the group’s expert crafting of rising and falling dynamics and mastery of restrained playing. The relationship between the violin and saxophones is especially compelling: a beautiful duet in the middle of the second improvisation highlights the instruments’ similarity of compass at the same time that it emphasizes their differences in timbre. Sjöström is particularly attentive to the sound quality of the soprano and sopranino saxophones, often softening their strident voices with mutes; both Wachsmann and Bauer make best use of their instruments’ range of plucked and bowed sounds. The final piece on the album, Wachsmann’s composition Three Draft Pistons, is a fittingly sparse and episodic recreation of the understated, sound-oriented improvisation developing in the UK in the 1980s.


Σημαντικοί μουσικοί συνασπίζονται εδώ, για να παίξουν, να αυτοσχεδιάσουν και να οργανώσουν ήχους, αλλά και για να ηχογραφηθούν, ζωντανά φυσικά, στην Galerie Nord του Βερολίνου, την 23η Ιαν. 2018. Ποιοι είναι αυτοί; Ο φινλανδός σαξοφωνίστας (σοπράνο και σοπρανίνο) Harri Sjöström (γνωστός από το Cecil Taylor Ensemble και το Sestetto Internazionale – για άλμπουμ του Sestetto έχουμε review στο δισκορυχείον), ο άγγλος βιολιστής και μάστερ των live electronics Philipp Wachsmann (γνωστός μας και από την συνεργασία του με τον Φλώρο Φλωρίδη στον Ελλήσποντο της Θεσσαλονίκης στα μέσα του ’80, και φυσικά από δεκάδες άλλα projects, με Evan Parker, Paul Lytton κ.ά.), ο μεξικάνος βιμπραφωνίστας Emilio Gordoa, ο γερμανός κοντραμπασίστας Matthias Bauer, ο οποίος έχει εμφανισθεί κι αυτός με δεκάδες (μέχρι και με τον Mayo Thompson) και τέλος ο νορβηγός ντράμερ Dag Magnus Narvesen. Πέντε μουσικοί λοιπόν, που συνευρίσκονται σε μια σκηνή και που αποφασίζουν να συνομιλήσουν ηχητικώς μέσα από μεγάλες κυρίως διάρκειες (εδώ καταγράφονται ένα 23λεπτο track κι ένα 25λεπτο), οι οποίες διάρκειες μπορούν, όσο να ’ναι, να τους δώσουν το κατάλληλο πλαίσιο και την κατάλληλη ώθηση, προκειμένου να αναπτύξουν τις ιδέες τους. Και αυτό συμβαίνει. Οι μουσικές του κουιντέτου, ανήκουν οπωσδήποτε στο χώρο του free-improv, αλλά η αποδόμηση είναι λελογισμένη. Δεν έχουμε δηλαδή μια 100% εικονοκλαστική προσέγγιση, αλλά, περισσότερο, κάτι που οριοθετείται και από πιο «χειροπιαστά» μικρο-περιβάλλοντα – εντός των οποίων παρεισφρέουν μελωδικά μοτίβα και πιο τυπικές ρυθμικές ακολουθίες. Ο Wachsmann (βιολί) θα λέγαμε πως ανά διαστήματα αναδεικνύεται στον πιο «συμβατικό» παίκτη της πεντάδος, με τις μελωδίες του να ακουμπούν ακόμη και τα όρια της chamber music, χωρίς βεβαίως ποτέ να καταπίπτει στο τελείως προφανές και στο εντελώς αναμενόμενο. Γενικώς, το “Up and Out” [Αmirani Records, 2019] είναι μια παράσταση (η καταγραφή της εννοούμε), που έχει τον τρόπο να διατηρεί το ενδιαφέρον του ακροατή, ακόμη και στα σημεία στα οποία νοιώθεις κάπου... να χάνεται η μπάλα. Εκεί αναλαμβάνουν τα διάφορα εφφέ, ακουστικά και ηλεκτρονικά, που «γεμίζουν» τα κενά με συνεχόμενες παραδοξότητες. Ένα κλασικό άλμπουμ για το ρόστερ της ιταλικής Amirani (είναι το εξηκοστό του καταλόγου της), μιας εταιρείας που... φυλάει Θερμποπύλες.

Music Zoom

Alla Galerie Nord di Berlino si è tenuto questo concerto di musica improvvisata di un quintetto internazionale, ritrovatosi insieme nella capitale tedesca, una città che è un catalizzatore per i musicisti che praticano questo genere. Insieme al sassofonista soprano finlandese harry Sjöström c’è un altro veterano,l’inglese Philipp Wachsmann al violino. A completare la band dal Messico Emilio Gordoa al vibrafono, il tedesco Matthias Bauer al contrabbasso ed il batterista norvegese Dag Magnus Narvesen. L’incontro fra diverse generazioni di musicisti funziona, ognuno porta le proprie esperienze arricchendo quello che è il linguaggio di questa musica. Sjöström ha fatto parte del quintetto di Cecil Taylor, Wachsmann è stato fra i primi in Europa a praticare musica improvvisata, gli altri apportano il loro contributo così che la musica appare fresca, ricca di idee che spuntano nuove in continuazione dall’intreccio di suoni. Nel lungo
Up and Out – Three ci sono notevoli momenti del violinista, poi affiancato da Sjöström in un crescendo continuo mentre la ritmica si adegua a questo continuo saliscendi di emozioni. La collettività del gesto artistico non viene mai meno, l’empatia fra i partecipanti è palpabile, completamente assorbiti dai loro suoni e da quello che succede in compagnia. Sul finale Three Draft Pistons ci sono atmosfere più pensose e delicate, quasi meditative.


Harri Sjöström - soprano & sopranino saxophone, selected mutes
Philipp Wachsmann - violin / live electronics
Emilio Gordoa - vibraphone
Matthias Bauer - double bass
Dag Magnus Narvesen - drums

All compositions by Sjöström (©GEMA), Wachsmann (©PRS), Gordoa, Bauer, Narvesen(©TONO)
except track 4* by Wachsmann (©PRS),
Recorded live on January 23, 2018 at Galerie Nord, Berlin, Germany
Mixing: Philipp Wachsmann
Mastering: Maurizio Giannotti, New Mastering Studio, Milano, Italy
Cover photo: Harri Sjöström
Inside photos: Catherine Hope – Jones
Cover artwork: Tom Tomzyck
Graphics: Nicola Guazzaloca
Executive production by Gianni Mimmo for Amirani Records

A cooperation between: Galerie Nord | Kunstverein Tiergarten and Soundscapes, Berlin, Germany
Thanks to: Veronika Witte – artistic director at Galerie Nord | Kunstverein Tiergarten, Carl Wilkens and Andreas Wolf