SWAMPFIRE, PART I 9:23
Rolf Kühn - clarinet
Produced by Rolf Kühn in
association with Achim Torpus
There must be few places on earth as captivating and inspiring as the
Located 79 kilometers, or about 50 miles, off the coast of the city of
Rolf Kühn had discovered
By 1978, Rolf Kühn had developed into one of the finest jazz clarinet players in the world. Where once, long ago, he might have been cast in the shadows of Buddy DeFranco or Benny Goodman, he had long since succeeded in developing his own voice and crafting a style that developed over increasingly more interesting albums on the Vanguard, Panorama, Brunswick, Amiga, CBS, Impulse, Intercord, Metronome, EMI/Hörzu, BASF and MPS labels.
Kühn began accepting commissions for film work in 1968, which led to
more work in German TV, radio and theatre and while he continued to
perform regularly with his group in his native
He had long desired to bring the orchestral writing he’d been doing for years in film and TV to one of his jazz records, something he’d never done before, and proposed the idea to MPS owner Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer. Always the artist’s advocate, Brunner-Schwer agreed to fund the project and Rolf Kühn began writing his tribute to the wild and pretty countryside that had moved him so much.
Recorded in two sessions in the summer of 1978,
Symphonic Swampfire perfectly
projects the wild beauty of the
The soloists, in particular, do a fine job of bringing Kühn’s vision to life and vividly breathing life into the vision. It’s remarkable how each player is able to not only make one engaging statement after another, but provide the suite with the requisite mystery and appeal of such an inscrutable and beloved place.
Rolf Kühn’s compositions leap and lope, twist and turn, explore new paths, then suddenly end. One senses this is exactly what he was going for. Yet there is an informal consistency that never throws the listener too far afield. The eponymous two-parter allows for much of the album’s best exploration from all concerned, particularly Philip Cathérine’s scene-setting guitar - folk music for another world.
The dark and moody “La Canal,” a small rural village on
This work places Rolf Kühn in the vaunted company of jazz’s other brilliant modern expressionists like Don Sebesky and Claus Ogerman. Sebesky, architect of many of the classic CTI records - which Symphonic Swampfire’s structure resembles - and the trombonist who sat with Rolf Kühn in Urbie Green’s Orchestra in the fifties, was also recording his Three Works For Jazz Soloists and Symphony Orchestra at the same time.
Claus Ogerman, the German composer and arranger Kühn had met a couple of times in New York in the sixties, where Ogerman was working and living, had also issued the lovely, bracing and similarly simpatico fusion of Gate of Dreams the year before, in 1977. Other similar examples could be heard on Frenchman Michel Colombier’s Wings and the Introspection series Dutch composer Rogier van Otterloo created for flautist Thijs Van Leer.
While certainly very little orchestral jazz was
still being made at the
time of Symphonic Swampfire,
the album stands strong as a beautiful signpost to the end of a majestic
era. On the other hand, very little jazz fusion of the era sounded as
solid and worth revisiting as Rolf Kühn’s tribute to
Douglas Payne, September 2009