Spell-Binding Musical Odyssey

First-class duo: Saxophonist and composer Henriette Müller and bassist Simon Pauli in concert at the Versöhnungskirche in Ulm-Wiblingen.

Jazz, New Music or New Age? Never mind. An unconventional concept, an unconventional duo: Demarcations of style and the boundaries between composed and improvised music simply fade away. Born in Ulm, Henriette Müller doesn't fit a single cliché. Where else do you find a soprano and tenor saxophonist who has remained rooted in jazz since taking her master's degree at the Manhattan School of Music in 1994, and not only performs worldwide but also follows her own personal quest as an outstanding composer?

She crafted all of the pieces on the new CD "Silberne Lachtränen" ("Silvery Tears of Laughter"), which the duo from Berlin is presenting on their tour of Swabia. Anyone expecting acoustic escapades based on the title of this CD, however, was on the wrong track. Those who love the sounds capes of Jan Garbarek or Michael Riessler, on the other hand, were served beautifully in Wiblingen's Versöhnungskirche by the fine duo and its first-class standard of chamber music.

In the lofty acoustics of the church, the delightful union of the two instruments evolved in a marvelous manner, with the window panes clinking in fortissimo and the low-end resonance even generating a tactile sensation. Such works as "The Wheel" invite one to listen, relax, enjoy, and sense an inner tranquillity, as does "Meer-Frieden" ("Peace of the Sea"), which might just as well be read "mehr Frieden" ("more peace") on account of its meditative quality. Yet this music is much too exhilarating for one to simply sit back and drift off. No psychedelic, sedative sing-song here, but rather an audio feast displaying its most charming features, redolent of tango, in "A Little Cuckoo".
Simon Pauli is an acclaimed accompanist for pop, jazz, and world music artists, yet he is not one to race up and down the fret board. Instead, this low-key and subtle expert enjoys sophisticated experimental effects such as in "Snake Dance", yet never loses his sensitive musical identity. Partly in dialogue, partly in contrasting independent melodic lines or captivating solos, these two musicians revel in their spell-binding odyssey.
Drawing unstinting applause throughout the two hours leading up to the encore piece "West 25th", an homage to New York, they wove a lyrical depth of emotion and driving rhythms into a jazzy, avant-garde yet tonal tapestry, creating a résumé of cutting-edge expressive power.