Heinrich von Kalnein: Möbius Strip

In brief:
" excellent pairing of albums, with the juxtaposition between composed and improvised music engaging and demonstrative of superb musicianship"

This double album release combines two of Kalnein’s recordings to celebrate his 60th birthday. The first, Into The Now! – Improvisations is the result of a series of free improvisations Kalnein recorded before recruiting Gina Schwarz and Lukas König to retrospectively record a rhythm section over the tracks. The second, Saxotonics – Music For Saxophone Quartet, is a series of original compositions and covers performed, as the name suggests, by four saxophones. 

The first album is made up of numbered improvisations in no particular order, the majority of which featuring Schwarz on bass and König on drums, with interspersed solos. While free improvisations by name, Kalnien’s recordings are more melody-based than experimental.


The tracks are short and precise, exploring themes and motifs without wandering into repetition or excessive improvisation. Instead, the trio provides a range of musical material through dynamic contour and elastic tempos.

For example, on the third, No.3 – Tenor, Bass & Drums, each instrument is its own entity, with brief moments of uniformity giving way to rhythmic divergence, whereas on the tenth track, No.12 – Tenor & Bari, Kalnein duets with himself in unison through a steady and reserved melody. The minimalistic instrumentation lends itself to a spacious atmosphere, and the acoustic timbre reinforces this with a natural resonance and sustain. 

The second album on the other hand, presents a far more predetermined approach to composition, with each saxophone forming a critical element of a four-part arrangement. The opening track Resistance and the fourth, Swedish Blue, all feature excellent harmonisation, creating warm and sonorous arrangements. The quartet also uses some acoustic percussion, such as hand clapping, which forms part of a very original cover of John Coltrane’s Blue Train that also features guest Uli Rennert on synthesiser.

The group do, however, return to the experimental in places, particularly on the three movements of the 3 – 4 – 5 series. Using guttural synthesizer tones and more acoustic percussion such as scrapes and audible blowing and hissing, the backdrop is set for saxophones to play a call and response-esque pattern, using a single, intermittently varying pitch between instruments. 

Released on Kalnein’s own label, Natango Music, Möbius Strip is an excellent pairing of albums, with the juxtaposition between composed and improvised music engaging and demonstrative of superb musicianship. Overall, while experimental and at times challenging, there is much to enjoy throughout.

Click here to hear/buy Heinrich von Kalnein: Möbius Strip

CD1: No.1 – Prologue; No.2 – Alto, Bass & Drums; No.3 – Tenor, Bass & Drums; No.4 Alto & Bass; No.16 – Bari, Bass & Drums; No.8 – Tenor & Drums; No.11 – Interlude; No.17 – Bari, Bass & Drums; No.10 – Tenor & Bass; No.12 – Tenor & Bari; No.15 – Bari, Bass & Drums; No.13 – Alto & Drums; No.14 – Bari, Bass & Drums; No.7 – Epilogue (43.17)
CD2: Resistance; Blue Train; 3 – 4 – 5 1st Movement (Meditation – Exercise); Swedish Blue; 3 – 4 – 5 2nd Movement (Listen – Absorb); Think About It; 3 – 4 – 5 3rd Movement (Rage – Serenity); No Rhythm, No Change; Bugs, Birds & Beasts; Marlene On The Couch (47.54)

Von Kalnein (as, ts, bar); Gina Schwarz (b); Lukas König (d); Jaka Arh (ss); Jonathan Herrgesell (as); Cristina Miguel Martinez (ts); Uli Rennert (syn). Ibiza, September 2016 and September 2017. Vienna, 11 November 2019. Graz, 21 January and 3 June 2019.
Natango Music NAT 47620-2

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