Review: Carl Ludwig Hübsch, John Edwards, John Butcher and Oren Marshall

Carl Ludwig Hübsch and Oren Marshall
Cafe Oto, 6 March 2012
Drawing by Geoffrey Winston.
Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved

Carl Ludwig Hübsch, John Edwards, John Butcher and Oren Marshall
 (Café Oto, Tuesday 6 March 2012; review and drawing by Geoff Winston)

Tuba maestro, Carl Ludwig Hübsch, intriguingly mentions that before taking up formal music studies in his home-town of Freiburg, and then in Cologne, where he now resides, he was self-taught. His early musical experience included ‘a wonderfully mediocre dance music trio’! This improvising event was anything but mediocre, but Hübsch’s statement gives a hint of the gentle, self-deprecating humour which permeated his richly improvised duos with bassist John Edwards, saxophonist John Butcher and tuba player Oren Marshall.

Hübsch applied two differently-shaped mutes to his glistening, polished tuba. One looked like half a football with black insulating tape wrapped around it. The other was a cylindrical, red, decorated biscuit tin, from which Hübsch coaxed fragile vibrations when he placed it within the tuba’s bell, or metallic scratching sounds when he ran it around its edge.

In a broad, free-flowing rapport, Edwards echoed the tuba player’s approach, challenging his instrument as a source of percussive tones, tapping the bow on the edges of the body, then wedging it high up in the strings, creating new tensions to which he rapidly responded in tactile explorations.

The creative stream was continued by John Butcher on soprano sax, in a conversation which combined air escapes from both instruments with taps on the tuba’s body, parakeet calls and some straight down-the-line sax. Equally at home with the virtual mimicking of mechanical engine sounds as with tiny silent hisses, a sense of enjoyment was conveyed as they pushed the possibilities in tandem.

Last year Per Åke Holmander had introduced the Café Oto audience to a mixture of virtuosity and humour in his solo tuba set with the Tentet, and this thread was followed in a knockabout duo between Hübsch and Marshall.

Put two improvising tuba players together onstage, and some wicked humour will be unavoidable. Blasting off with two sharp parps from Marshall, they egged each other along in a flowing dialogue in the deep registers. Marshall, never to be underestimated in his onstage pursuit of the elephantine bellow or the sounds of flatulence and belching, was matched by Hübsch, who responded by swivelling dramatically, hoisting his tuba above his head, and winging round, clasping the tuba horizontally before raising it to a conventional playing position. The natural flow ground to a halt when Marshall ponderously dragged his Orenphone over the stone flags on the floor, taking to the limit the earlier idea that the body of an instrument is also a physical sound source.

To open the second set, the British trio soared and swooped, pummelled and stretched, before being joined by Hübsch for the closing quartet, with Butcher on tenor. Their exercise in hushed utterances saw Hübsch dragging his hands over the brass to elicit light squeaks from its surface before a second phase of sustained pitches and blustery blowing.

After one and now two tubas, what will Café Oto do next to push the boundaries? Three?

Carl Ludwig Hübsch: tuba
John Edwards: double bass
John Butcher: soprano and tenor saxophones
Oren Marshall: Orenphone tuba


Categories: miscellaneous

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