Born in Vienna in 1921, multi-saxophonist Hans Koller was a seminal figure in post-war European jazz. A prodigious player, he worked with Stan Kenton, Lee Konitz, formed a group with Oscar Pettiford and Kenny Clarke, and created one of the first fusion groups. Koller received numerous requests by American musicians to emigrate to the States, but decided to remain in Europe. His play and compositions, a combination of experimentation and an adherence to tradition, catapulted him to the forefront of the European scene.
Recorded in 1966, Relax With My Horns and Vision are companion albums set in trio. Koller shares some of the compositional and arrangement work with Viennese Hans Rettenbacher, who was one of the most sought after bassists on the European scene, as his work with the likes of Eric Dolphy and Don Ellis can attest. Berliner drummer Rafi Lüderitz’s sojourn in the USA in 1958 saw him playing with such greats as Coleman Hawkins and Ted Curson. Although trio albums, Koller overdubs as many as four horns, playing both tenor and alto, and Rettenbacher occasionally sits in on piano as an extra voice. The results resonate more as an ultra-hip saxophone choir-come big band than an intimate trio.
Relax With My Horns
In the title piece close harmonies garnish a big band sound, and there is a taste of Dolphy in Koller’s alto play. The Sweetest girl I’ve Ever Known offers up a trenchant ballad with rich harmonies. Dedicated to Picasso, Music For Pablo I swings hard and up-tempo – Lüderitz’s 10 year stint in NYC stands him in good stead here. The Twister zigzags along with arresting accompaniments and musical asides. Half and Half has a big band swing sensibility and jumps into double time. Ziag Hin starts off as a march before moving into swing. Blues For Marina is a tasty piece drenched in the blues. Music For Pablo II is another piece dedicated to Picasso with a vertical cubistic feel and a powerful extended alto solo.