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.
Vision I portrays canonically overlaid sax parts played at breakneck speed before moving into a relaxed bluesy groove, then turns to blistering multi-horn solos. The dirge-like For Dolphy, with the plaintive vocal cries of the altos, was dedicated to the great alto saxophonist Eric Dolphy. The med swing and skewed bluesy feel of For H.G. features the tenor out front. Tryptichon is a challenging angular composition in 3 parts with free improvisation moving from slow to up-tempo and back. With its Dolphyesque melody, Music For Jule is a frenetic excursion with an oblique reference to Monk. For Koller, Ballad For Marlies evokes the essence of a ballad. A Different Theme comprises three phrases played in different times - perfect food for the soloists. Vision II is a free-form ballad with Rittenbacher doubling piano and Koller’s expressive sax solo.