This habit some experimental musicians have of applying forced context or stories to what is essentially pure improvised music does sometimes perplex me. Here Janek references Kaspar Hauser with the title and in the sleeve notes. He also states the intention “…to de- and reformulate the idea of beauty”. When referencing the case of Kaspar Hauser, I assume Janek sees himself as “…set free…” from traditional technique, and aims, on this disc at least, to “…redefine by discover[y] and recover the potentiality sound and tone embodies…” The bleaker reality of Parts I-IV is more austere unaccompanied contrabass. These recordings are from earlier in Janek’s career; this side was recorded in 1997, the flip the following year. So in fairness, we are hearing an improvisor with most likely a classical and/or jazz background probably fairly near the beginnings of his more avant explorations.
These days, Kaspar Hauser’s own claims that he was a royal bastard unfairly locked up as a child in a tiny, windowless room for sixteen years by persons unknown only to be released suddenly to deal with what Janek refers to as “…processes of deciphering and sorting of sounds, senses and impressions…” has largely been debunked by historians as a hoax on the part of Hauser himself. It seems many historians now believe Hauser was a con-artist, inveterate liar and concerned only with maintaining his position of support from his well-meaning patrons before they could stand his lies and scheming no more. This adds an interesting flavour to proceedings. But, like Hauser, here is the transition Janek wants to achieve:
Throughout Parts V-VII, Janek builds a mood of suspense using overlapping approaches; a specific direction: on VI he utilises vocalising, bow-bouncing on the strings, marking time eating only bread and water, while VII, although short at 1 minute 34 seconds, flings out more wordless vocalising alongside melodic bass. From this, the transition takes place, giving way to Janek’s version of “Prayer Beads”; a composition by American jazz bassist, composer and bandleader Marc Johnson. Johnson worked with Bill Evans, Bill Frisell, Pat Metheny, ‘Philly’ Joe Jones, Jack DeJohnette and many others for labels including ECM, Blue Note, Challenge, Egea and CAM Jazz. “Prayer Beads” is a strong piece – particularly in the context of the abstract nature of the rest of this disc – performed well. The fact that it sticks out makes me wish there was more of this kind of material not only on this disc, but spread out over all five of these records.
Part I, II, III, VI, VII recorded July 12, 13, 15, 1997 Part IV, V recorded June 11, 1998 Part VIII recorded September 27, 1994 ... for Rara Records. An alternative version of the work was released in 2004 by [l136177]