Artistically speaking, Norbert Stein has found a place in the sun: he is one of the happy few in German jazz to have created a sonically distinctive concept of his own. Whether or not the style called “Patamusic” hails from Alfred Jary’s “Pataphysik” (as Stein himself will jokingly concede), or from any other school, is immaterial. The name attached to sound-driven art is always arbitrary, a useful analogy upon which musical logic cannot be built.

Tags such as “hymn-melody” or “narrative melody” may do greater justice to the essence of the form, but sound long-winded and are no match for the pithy “Patamusic”. The same applies to the sound itself: Patamusic, played by a trio, as here in an octet, or by a big band, is instantly recognizable, unshakeable in its identity and never hampered by format.

A few years ago, in a quartet line-up, Norbert Stein brought the jazziest rendition of Patamusic to the provincial stage. Its studio production remains eagerly awaited. Which encourages me to go one further: Patamusic is Norbert Stein and Nobert Stein is Patamusic, if only because its repertory is out of bounds to its exponents, who are called upon to interpret, and not to compose. Patamusic stays the same, what changes is presentation, or, more plainly speaking, the line-up. “Liquid Bird”, for example, appears here for the fourth time since 1993, and still sounds different. “Monks” is here for the second time, leaving us wondering about the absence of the much-loved “Atonal Citizen”.

carnivalcd.jpgUnlike earlier productions, “Code Carnival” doesn’t drop anchor in an ethno-musical port, be it in Morocco, Bahia, Java, or anywhere else, but disembarks, as it were, onto Norbert Stein’s very own home turf in the realm called jazz. This isn’t about “jazz plus X”, too often revered to the point of dogma, but about the old set of rules which first inspired – an enterprise which many a musician would fail to pull off. Not so Norbert Stein, who unearths the strengths of variegated, jazz-influenced rhythms, starting from swing through to heavy rock eights and then free metre (although bass and drums could knit a bit tighter).

One of the big assets of the production are the solo qualities of the extended line-up – credit here goes to Thomas Heberer and Christopher Dell, and no less to the band leader, who displays Ayleresque panache.

“Code Carnival” starts and finishes with marches: the opening title track is a kind of jazz march, and “Just Brave in a Brain” the rock march finale – a punky 2-bar bass ostinato that carries the bass at 3:58 into triplet afro-feel, picking up the theme again later in binary beat. Norbert Stein clearly relishes the rhythmic modulations. The penultimate track, “Ballade von Zounds” is yet another 2-bar ostinato with a counterpoint theme which dissolves the metre and then dips back into a ternary groove, this time an uptempo swing, Norbert Stein dazzles us with the myriad possibilities of his system, and its constituent parts work together excellently. Even with a more reductive recipe, we cannot imagine a result less sparkling. Michael Rüsenberg

Norbert Stein Pata Generators – the compact orchestra – combines the wealth of colours and the density of a large band with the intimate expressiveness of a chamber music ensemble. The latest CD: “code carnival” Imaginative and powerfully rhythmic Pata compositions carve spaces for expressive solos and launch an adventure in contemporary music. A powerful ensemble in exciting time.

carnivalcd.jpgCode Carnival
Pata Music CD 17

Norbert Stein / tenorsaxophone, composition, Michael Heupel / flutes, Thomas Heberer / trumpet, Frank Gratkowski / clarinet, Matthias Muche / trombone, Christopher Dell / vibraphone, Achim Tang / double bass, Klaus Mages / drums.

Tracks: Code carnival – Raga vom einfachen Leben (Raga of an ordinary life) – Bersten in rot (Bursting in red) – Liquid bird – Monks – Frozen Kakadu – Sing a pure song – Sterntagebuecher (Star diaries) – Ballade von Zounds! und Pox! (Ballad of Zounds! and Pox!) – Just brave in a brain.

listen to code carnival

listen to bursting in red

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