Heberer/Manderscheid: What a Wonderful World
by Steven Loewy
Every now and then, trumpeter Thomas Heberer looks way back while reaching forward, producing something that is at once highly familiar yet twisted, like a nightmare from which one cannot escape -- except that it is strangely enjoyable.
Heberer and bassist Dieter Manderscheid did it years earlier in their magnificent tribute to the music of Jelly Roll Morton on the same label, and they are back again with an equally compelling review of Louis Armstrong's work.
While half the pieces were actually written by Heberer, all retain the essence of Satchmo, with a general focal point of early 20th century jazz that is contorted and distorted, yet ironically (or even oxymoronically), greatly respectful toward the melodies and original styles. Occasionally, tapes of Armstrong's voice and music are interjected, but mostly the love of the music is implicit, with Heberer showing considerable admiration for the tunes, often playing (playfully) with their essential natures.
Sometimes there is humor, as when Heberer manipulates sounds with his lips or when Armstrong's voice-overs are added, as, for example, on Educating People. Manderscheid brilliantly gives the trumpeter the freedom to bend, pushing the bass to the limits so that the trumpeter can explore with impunity. While most of the tracks celebrate melody, Hello Dolly is an obvious exception, and the tune is thoroughly deconstructed to the point that the melody is totally unrecognizable.
There is a total of 15 selections, and there is so much fun and strangeness packed together that the listener continually wonders what to expect next. He is rarely disappointed.