In an interview published in 2012, trumpeter Leonel Kaplan explained how, as a jazz player, it seemed clear to him early on that great players all developed their own sound and that trying to sound like your heroes worked against developing as a jazz artist. This seems to have been a major turning point for the Argentine-based musician, as it no doubt has been for many a musician working in improvised music. The change of direction meant exploring more contemporary approaches to the trumpet, one of the most iconic of instruments in jazz, from Armstrong to Miles and beyond.
In this set of music, Kaplan, who frequently collaborates with other trumpeters (e.g. Nate Wooley and Axel Dörner), is joined by German trumpeter Birgit Ulher, a compatible exploratory soul who brings a background in visual arts to the table, approaching trumpet much like Bill Dixon did, as offering possibilities of color, texture, shapes and so on. She adds radio, speaker and objects to the basic palette afforded by the trumpet.
The title of this release is what first attracted this listener. What could be better than one trumpet? Two of course. And stereo to boot. But I didn't really know what to expect beyond the instrumentation. The listening experience has been an ear-widening one, as this release sounds like a compendium of subtle possibilities of the instrument, whose timbral qualities of the non-idiomatic sort are the subject of creative exploration.
With the CD in the player, the sounds filling the room sometimes recall metal shop magic, with piercing and grinding, or outdoor renovation projects in full swing in early summer. Air leaking through metal tubes and coming out through a bell is essentially the principle of the instrument, and these two explorers bring out the nuances in that basic concept.
The opener "Otto Sees Anna" is the longest and most thorough of the four pieces, developing at a snail's pace. "I Did, Did 1" is a succinct piece which blends silence and sound in a hypersensitive manner, whereas "Late Metal" and the title track, "Stereo Trumpet" elaborate on some of the touched on concepts, the difference being a bolder set of statements.
The whole thing can stand as a kind of report on the progress being made these days in the conception of trumpet aesthetics. We are no longer living in the age of Miles. Trumpeters (and audiences!) should realize that and move on. Kaplan and Ulher have.
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