In Just (2011)

DUH: Gratkowski/Mezei/Markos/Blume

Red Toucan Records RT 9341

Frank Gratkowski – alto sax, clarinet, bass clarinet
Szilard Mezei – viola
Albert Markos – cello
Martin Blume – drums, percussions

1. in Just (10:55)
2. spring (6:56)
3. balloonman (6:29)
4. mud-luscious (4:01)
5. hop-scotch (6:34)
6. jump-rope (5:50)
7. far and wee (2:26)
8. goat-footed (10:19)

Recorded May 03, 2010 at LOFT (Cologne, Germany)

"In spring 2010, I was asked to form a project for the Festival “Scene Ungarn in NRW” (Nordrhein-Westfalen - NRW is my home country in Germany). This was a great opportunity to contact again the hungarian cellist Albert Márkos with whom I played together only once at a Music Symposium in Copenhagen 15 years ago. NRW (and Berlin) based reed player Frank Gratkowski, with whom I’m working regularly since end of the 80s (recently also in our actual group SHIFT), was the first choice for the NRW part of the group. Albert proposed right away the violist Szilárd Mezei with whom he collaborates in many other projects. The Quartet played 5 concerts and immediately the chemistry and musical communication of the group worked perfect, which made us decide to continue working as a steady group which we call DuH: D for Germany and H for Hungary. This recording is a documentation of our first concert."
Martin Blume


"This quartet was organized by German drummer Martin Blume and it is indeed an intriguing line-up. I am a big fan of viola player Szilard Mezei who has more than a dozen discs out different labels (Leo, Slam, Not Two) as well as Frank Gratkowski, another great player with dozens of discs also on many labels. I am unfamiliar with cellist Albert Markos, although he has worked with Mezei in different projects.
Recorded at the Loft in Cologne in May of 2010 during a five concert tour by the DuH quartet. This is a strong improv session with excellent, thoughtful interplay. Some of this sounds like lower case improv but with a bit more quirky interaction. All of the instruments are acoustic and closely mic'd. When I take the time to concentrate on this music, I hear so much elastic interplay with intricate sounds and ideas flowing back and forth quickly. There are moments when it is difficult to tell who is doing what - is that a bowed cymbal or a bowed string or slightly twisted reed sound? It takes some patience to hear the arc or the almost imperceptible connection between all of the members of the quartet. The thing is that you know it's there sometimes hidden, sometimes not so much."
Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery

"Free improvisation guarantees the sound of surprise in a way that few other musical strains do. While the primacy of the moment and the players' responses in it and to it are the prime motivations for the music, this will always be the case. This makes the idea of trying to define just what governs the success of the resulting music a slippery notion but, however it might be pinned down, In Just falls very much on the positive side.
That sounds like faint praise, but it would be difficult to try and define just what it is about such intensely inscrutable music that holds the attention, even though it does so with interest. This ensures that the small sounds at the opening of "spring" are compelling in themselves, less the next best thing to silence and more as the result of an understanding of that elusive quality. Szilard Mezel's viola and Albert Markos' cello seem to have the effect of coming together, only to draw apart quickly, as if motivated by mutual distrust.
Despite not immediately follow such title discussions, "goat-footed" could be the other side of the same coin. The strings are again capricious enough to suggest the similarly string-oriented version of the Spontaneous Music Ensemble, before drummer Martin Blumes sounds like a man trying to impose fractious order. As the music progresses Frank Gratkowski, on clarinet, lays claim to territory on the periphery of the music, but such is the primacy of that moment again that the resulting tension is quickly dissipated.
"hop-scotch" suggests something more playful than the reality of the music, at least at first. Gratkowski teases out a meandering line to which Mezel adheres before taking wing, but received notions have only tangential relevance. This is hardly surprising given this music's fearsome individuality.
Nic Jones - All About Jazz

"DuH is a German-Hungarian quartet consisting of reedsman Frank Gratkowski, drummer Martin Blume, violist Szilárd Mezei, and cellist Albert Márkos. Gratkowski and Blume often play together (in Shift, among other projects), while Márkos is included in most of Mezei’s groups. In Just documents their first concert (there has been more, and this quartet intends to last). A strong performance from seasoned improvisers, with Mezei’s microtonal playing fitting in perfectly with Gratkowski & Blume’s more pointillistic approach. A very good choice by the Red Toucan label."
François Couture

"The band's name comes from the origin of the players : Deutschland und Hungary, because drummer Martin Blume and reedist Frank Gratkowski come from Germany, while Szilárd Mezei on viola and Albert Márkos on cello come from Hungary. All four musicians fit well within the European tradition of free improvisation : their abstract sounds color empty silence, while interacting in the moment with each other.
This coloring surpasses what you might expect from the instruments : sounds can be stretched, as is easily done with two string instruments, yet are often limited to short bursts, whispers or phrases that come and go gently, yet all together paint a canvas that is well illustrated by the artwork on the cover, as subtle as pointillism and as dynamic as action painting.
Even if abstract and hermetic at first listen, drop your preconceived notions and natural tendency for pattern recognition : just listen to the sounds and how they organically move forward, shift, intensify, change volume, oscillate, bounce and merge and let yourself be absorbed by the wonderful aesthetic these four musicians create."

"It was Markos’ dynamic inventions at their first meeting nearly 15 years previously which encouraged veteran German percussionist Martin Blume to form this quartet. Markos brought along Mezei, with whom he regularly works in many other ensembles, and the drummer, Berlin-based reedist Frank Gratkowski, who has played alongside Blume for 20 years in groups such as Shift. Now a working group, this CD, recorded at Köln’s Loft, preserves DuH’s first live gig. The newly constituted quartet tests out all sorts of strategies including double-stopping and snapping sprawls from the string players; rolls, ruffs and simple smacks from Blume; and everything from legato puffs to lip kisses from Gratkowski. But the band interaction shines most brightly when its members have more space as on the extended title track and “Goat-Footed”. On that final piece, staccato strings quiver, Gratkowski forces altissimo sneers from his clarinet, while Blum rubs his drum tops and smacks his rims while creating steel pan-like echoes. Markos’ and Mezei’s string actions split into legato pressures from the cellist and downward angling from the violist. Eventually the string intersection pulls away, leaving bass clarinet blows to define and complete the piece. As for the title tune, it`s vigor highlights how quickly four improvisers can come together without common Jazz-like tropes. If anything it’s Blume’s soft brush strokes which tame sul ponticello and staccato openness from the strings plus the reedist’s multiphonics so to conflate the output into a connective ostinato."
Ken Waxman