Berlin Tango


Nothing more has restored my faith in music than Joe Sachse's most recent releases. Last time I heard this one-man orchestra was 15 years ago on the outstanding solo "European House" [FMP], where for the duration of an hour he obliterated his electric and acoustic guitar with a screwdriver and other objects. All the while, he was able to play rhythm with his own solos. After a longish stint with DoppelMoppel [which is now celebrating its two decades in existence], he returns with more minimal, though fully orchestral climates.
"Riff" sees him in solo mode. As always, never happy to stand still, Sachse plays it tight in orchestral fashion. Other than his electric guitar, he also plays bass, flute and percussion. Percussion doesn't automatically mean an actual drum set. In Sachse's case, that term is used for plastic bags, used as hi-hats while his guitar case is treated as the bass drum. Many of the pieces on the record are covers. His rendition of Coltrane's "After The Rain" is carefully prepared and played with subtle grandeur but most of all, due respect. When he gets into "Round About Midnight", it's as if Sonny Sharrock's ghost was floating over the proceedings. The same human gentleness is pervasive throughout the track. Horace Silver's "The Preacher" shows Sachse's fun side. He strolls through the track, playing a flute and haphazardly vocalising the rhythm parts. I could go on for days expounding the virtues of Sachse's orchestral capabilities, but that's not the point here. His virtuosity for me comes through in his heart-felt picking, in the way his solos sound out with a definite purpose.
Recorded back in 1986 and 1987, "Berlin Tango (Joe Sachse duos)" sees Joe Sasche breaking ice with two top-notch American improvisers, vocalist David Moss and trombonist George Lewis. Moss [who also plays percussion and tape] isn't known for holding back. If anything, he's the one who often leads this session into territories left untouched. Listen to the way Moss stretches out on "Ornette Disaster". His cooked-up vocalizing turns into silly putty, which is then put together whole once Moss starts playing percussion. George Lewis lends support throughout, preferring to shadow Sachse energetic outbursts. Most coherent piece from a compositional stand-point is the always reliable "Lover Man". Though Sachse has attempted this track before on "European House", with Moss's assistance, it takes on an unreal quality. Like a horse on acid, Moss bellow and guffaws his way through the tune as if it were his very own. Sachse is in top form, no doubt. As he scrapes his way up and down the neck of his guitar, he creates multi-rhythmic tracks for himself and for his two cohorts. Five thumbs up to the person responsible for bringing this session back from the dead.

- Tom Sekowski

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