Pata Generators Pata Generators
Pata Generators Pata Generators
Artscape Festival / Vilnius; adaptation of an original photo by Vytautas Suslavicius

Armed with an extraordinarily rich vocabulary of expression Norbert Stein continues his ensemble work. And the all-star cast of PATA GENERATORS paints a picture of the world in gorgeous colours.

The appeal of Pata Music is due to its variety, and they enthusiastically declare themselves for their roots in the rich European music tradition in which they discover surprising, new sides.
Pata Music is full of surprises, it is open to all sorts of influences, it tears down fences of seemingly contradictory idioms, and coming from jazz improvisation, it builds up something new and exciting.

PATA GENERATORS combines the wealth of colours and the density of a large band arrangements with the intimate expressiveness of a chamber music ensemble. Imaginative and powerfully rhythmic Pata compositions carve spaces for expressive solos and launch an adventure in contemporary music.

A powerful ensemble in exciting time.

Norbert Stein - tenor saxophone
Michael Heupel - flutes
Matthias Muche - trombone
Sebastian Gramss - double bass
Christoph Haberer - drums

CD "direct speech"


An ensemble of striking power

... Although Stein has employed various materials from world music in his compositions and improvisation, the Pata-Generators quintet heard here may be his most directly related to jazz. Flutist Michael Heupel and trombonist Matthias Muche join Stein on unison heads, while bassist Sebastian Gramss and drummer Christoph Haberer function as a rhythm section, maintaining framework and coherence. So for all the pataphysics, what makes this music immediately accessible is that it’s rooted in the formal patterns of modern jazz while making fresh – genuinely unexpected – uses of those traditional elements.

The opening track has strong hints of inspiration in early Archie Shepp, Stein generating great vocalic bluster against the more orderly voices of his compositions. He wanders all over time, rushing, slowing and delaying the beat, all in a brilliantly slurred filibuster. It’s as if he’s identified a particularly lively moment in jazz discourse, from which his compositions make various forays to touch on a host of forms (”For: Get It!” is a round) and moods, at one point a certain formal turn chiming with Heupel’s refined flute sonority suggests the Chico Hamilton Quintet, 50s vintage. “Alice in the Parallel World” has hints of the Gil Evans/ Miles Davis collaborations in its voicings and rhythms. But there’s a central vision and animation to all of this that makes it an ensemble of striking power (think the Albert Mangelsdorff Quintet of “Now Jazz Ramwong”). How often does one get a chance to hear a musician whose conception of time seems simultaneously shaped by Alfred Jarry and Archie Shepp?

Stuart Broomer, Point of Departure

A wake-up call for the uninitiated jazz populous

Since 1986 German saxophonist Norbert Stein has issued fifteen albums under his emblematic Pata Music moniker, which is based on Frenchman Alfred Jarry's ideologies pertaining to physics and unreal logic, among other factors. In turn, Stein's compositional prowess includes what he refers to as “composed spheres,” enacted by the soloists' options to rearrange various movements of a given piece. And while Stein is not widely known in the USA, his muse and methodologies often signify a higher level of progressive-jazz, augmented by his well-defined compositional models.

On this 2008 release, Stein's quintet sports a little big band-like sound. With hard-edged horns choruses often engineered with the mindset of jagged or stilted circular patterns, this band's no nonsense mode of attack is irrefutably and progressive in nature amid sojourns into the freer realm. Stein is a superior technician who often drives the band via his jagged and soaring lines, yet flutist Michael Heupel occasionally tempers the blitzing undercurrents with airy phrasings over the top.

The program features African percussion motifs and interweaving horns parts, where the soloists embark on heated exchanges. But Stein's muse also generates a shroud of mystery, partly due to his manner of hinting at a given melody-line. On the title track “Direct Speech,” the quintet dives into a fiery rampage within a fractured groove, accelerated by Christoph Haberer's pounding drum solo. Then on “Alice in der parallelen Welt (Alice in the Parallel World),” the artists execute a punchy swing vamp, awash with spatial metrics and free-bop motifs, firmed-up by Sebastian Gramss' booming bass lines.

It's been said before that Stein's artistry would loom as a wake-up call for the uninitiated jazz populous. More importantly, his musicality offers a mark of distinction, especially when considering the constant influx of post-bop and modern jazz albums flooding the market. Simply stated, it's rare to be treated to musicians who project a noticeable identity while offering gobs of excitement to parallel the overall listening experience. Direct Speech drives that point home in rather illustrious fashion.

Glenn Astarita, AllAboutJazz

The band plays with uncontained imagination

I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve heard from Stein’s Pata Generators, and (the CD Direct Speech) is no exception. From the start, the band plays with uncontained imagination, opening with the disc in a Babel of voices, a swirl of noise from which a quirky, drunken flute/tenor pairing emerges, leading into some Braxtonian unisons. Stein leads the pack with a lusty, Shepp-inflected tenor narrative, with wry muted asides from Muche. But one of the things I like best about this band is that, as complex as the compositions get, as many directions as they take, they all sound organic, as if Freely improvised, rather than wooden or unfocused. It makes perfect sense, somehow, when the crystal meth waltz that opens “For: Get It!” suddenly disappears and leaves Stein channeling his inner Shepp once more (although I cringed at the “Aqualung” quote). Their approach has got the virtues of a good Vandermark Five record, especially in its catholic approach to rhythm (Haberer and Gramms are continually shifting on “Music for Stand-alone Player,” for example, and they sound great throughout). In these pursuits, they don’t indulge overmuch in crafty reharmonizations for the sake of it. Rather, when they do so it’s in order to provide grit and edge, as on the occasionally sour notes they get from minor seconds and so on. But more often they resort to overlapping lines that put a spotlight on the winds players who are so superb here: Muche’s sassy and swinging trombone on “Die Zen” and the dark “Direct Speech”; the leader’s tart lines on “Alice in der Parallelen Welt” or the impressionistic “Daily Life”; and perhaps most memorable of all, Heupel’s tremendous work on “Die Tochter” and “Les Yeux,” and even on the noisy free time closer. Another winner from this lot.

Jason Bivins, Cadence

Organic unity

There'll always be a lot to be said for music that takes in the rambunctious swagger of David Murray's tenor sax playing and Willem Breuker Kollektif's near-irreverence ...

Stein's tenor sax has something also of Al Cohn's later tone, although it's imbued with such a different swagger that the comparison is of only limited utility, especially when the music's so different from anything Cohn produced ... In solo, Stein brings his big, broad tone to bear in the service of small, fleeting touches and that paradox is broken down by a drum solo in which Haberer explores the full range of his kit, colors flaring again.

Matthias Muche's trombone solo is a model of trenchant self-expression, incidentally, and indicative of the degree to which expressivity is integral to the overall realization of the music ... Muche's trombone is featured in solo and he makes the most of the opportunity, putting out some solar flares even while he keeps right in with the spirit of the piece.

... with its sprightly rhythm changes and the bass-drum's axis ensuring that the absence of harmonic support passes unnoticed.

... On flute Michael Heupel gives the music some air, his fractious phrasing locking in with bass and drums in a rhythmic vortex. The group as a unit is as tight as is necessary, and the paradox that is their simultaneous looseness contributes in no small part to the distinctiveness of the music. The lesson is borne out by the closing "Borderline," where measured but happily unstately progress is the order of the day, allowing a glimpse of the group's organic unity even while the music flirts with the free.

Nic Jones, AllAboutJazz

It's amazing

It's amazing to hear how a creative musician can re-imagine another musician's music and make it their own. Such seems to be the case with German saxophonist Norbert Stein, who clearly owes a big debt to Archie Shepp. This isn't to say that Stein's tunes or approach to improvising are derivative, far from it. He has taken Shepp's declamatory delivery and fuzzy sub-tone sound and hooked them into a series of compositions that are at once speech-like and imaginatively melodic.

The first of 11 tunes, "Chameleon Nature" would have sounded at home on Shepp's On This Night, with its abrasive tenor rasp and vivacious vibrato. "The Daughter of the Pope" has an obliquely bluesy line worthy of George Russell, and flutist Michael Heupel gets ample solo space to indulge in his glowing tone and slippery, silvery lines. Trombonist Matthias Muche lets his plunger mute do the talking on the joyously rambunctious "The Zen Commandments." Every tune has a punchy arrangement, a gutsy orchestration and a committed performance. Direct Speech is new jazz that actually sounds new, not like reverent ancestor worship.

By Glen Hall,

Further international reviews about
Pata Generators "Direct Speech"

Jazznytt; Jazz Forum; Jazz e Arredores; Jazz Quadrat; Culture Jazz; Jazzenzo; Jazz & Tzaz;
Frankfurter Rundschau; Jazzthing; Fono Forum; Jazzpodium; Jazzthetik;; Blicklicht
Audio; Sonic; Rui Eduardo Paes; Bad Alchemy

CD "ccode carnival"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".

Unlike 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 Ruesenberg, jazzcity-net-edition


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