Sunday, July 02, 2017

Solid Fun: Gunter Hampel & Christian Weidner

I started listening to Christian Weidner shortly before meeting him in Greece during my 2009 travels. As I picked up his albums over the years since, I ran into a mention of Solid Fun - a duo with vibraphonist/bass clarinetist Gunter Hampel. I added it a few watch lists and kept an eye out for it in record stores (when I remembered). I finally ran across it (along with a couple more Lacy albums) in early June while browsing the Jazz Record Center. I was particularly curious about this release as it was recorded when he was about 19 years old, with 7 of the 8 tracks coming from a single concert in 1995 and the last piece is from a live performance the following year. There's almost ten years between this recording and his first date as a leader, the 2004 trio album Choral. 

Solid FunEarly Bird, Coltrane in the navy, Konitz with Claude Thornhill, Warne with the Canteen Kids's always fascinating hearing recordings of players earlier on in their development. What's similar, what's different, and would I pick them if I didn't know?

Although I consider myself pretty familiar with Weidner's recordings and quite confident in picking his playing, Solid Fun would have had me stumped. The tone is full but brighter, more conventional with a buoyant touch. The playing is busier - put it down to youthful energy - without the sense of space and pacing that I enjoy in his playing. There's an exuberant blues element that maybe somewhat overdone and I don't really hear in his playing these days.

There are a couple of spots that hint at his more mature sound - the way that he plays some notes, the phrasing and with that the tone I associate with him became more present (if just for a fleeting moment) - but even with repeated listening it is pretty well buried.

And I almost forgot to mention that in addition to alto, he plays tenor on a couple of tracks. It's not a horn I associate with him and although I had seen some live videos of Weidner on tenor with Kurt Rosenwinkel (I think), I do not remember them well enough to make any comparisons. I'm not sure if it's because I'm used to him on alto, but I feel that the smaller horn is a more natural voice for him.

While I don't place Solid Fun up there with his more mature works as a leader (or sideman), its been an enjoyable and fascinating listen. If there are other recordings between this and Choral I would be keen to give them a listen too.

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