In late 1960s, drummer Michael Jüllich and bassist Alois Kott launched the concept of a trio straddling the “border” erected by the media between the rock and jazz scenes. Continental Europe had none of the race divisions that were still determinant for the development of separate musical trends on the other side of the Atlantic. The openly avant-gardish evolution of German rock music in the following years allowed Contact Trio to develop into a tight unit incorporating explorations into jazz improvisation, contemporary composition and ethnic percussion. Contact Trio really took off when Evert Brettschneider joined on guitar in 1973.
The band’s parsimonious tapestries were an antidote to over-orchestrated pedantry and calculated, aseptic guitar races that began to dominate derivative jazz-rock by that time. Rather, the members of Contact Trio opted to nourish a mutual intrigue, but always foiling a full-blown arousal. Their reed-less style, sometimes compared to Giger-Lenz-Marron or to Electric Circus, remained diagrammatic and introspective. Despite the unquestionable quality of their music, their records never accrued the type of cult following that did many of their contemporaries.
The first sound of Contact Trio is that of a marimba, adroitly handled by Michael Jüllich. It breaks the ice for a fast ostinato courtesy Alois Kott on acoustic bass. Kott tees up for Evert Brettschneider on acoustic guitar, but the marimba appears to question this. The full configuration offers an initial response, but both string instruments will now proceed more cautiously. As the marimba and acoustic bass tiptoe along, an electric guitar introduces shreds of suspense; first intimate and delicate, then sharp and anguished, leaving us on tenterhooks. The bass indulges in thorny, crumpled vibrato and the guitar leaches improvisations laid out perfectly within the tonal range of the marimba. Brettschneider scatters some rugged flashes, but never races ahead. Even though his guitar does occasionally bring to mind Dzyan’s Eddy Marron, Contact Trio’s arrangements are more transparent and permeable.
The title track unfolds slowly with strings scraped along the body of the guitar. Porous, bowed bass adds another pole of wiry attraction. The strumming of the guitar could be a sign that the atonal intro is over. Instead, the guitar sets an irregular time signature, still scraping the end of the notes, chucking them into a deep echo. From that abyss emerges the flute (Jüllich), organically endearing itself to the bow. The wind instrument seems to be instantly magnetized by the guitar-stressed bars. Whereupon, the theme ceases… In an ambiguous moment of self-doubt, the guitar and bowed bass refuse to meet on the scale, even though they seem to be aware of each other’s meter. Jüllich’s tabla wakes them up, issuing an invitation to multivector explorations. This improvised trio is hermetic, but legible, scraggly but sprightly. Instead of a monsoon, the guitar calls on a whiff of Brazilian breeze. To the ostinato of acoustic bass ostinato and tabla, Brettschneider spreads his wings, cruising above the multi-metric transom with ease. His selection of pace, loudness and proportion is impeccable. After a short melodic interlude from the bass, the tabla is left alone. Most probably frowned upon by subcontinental purists, this parched, solo meditation bolts forward and perfectly sews into the fabric.
Brettschneider struts in, on a mystical electric guitar, with immanent delay and micro-distortion. This daring, graphic ode is also our first introduction to electric bass and drums. When the guitarist switches over to Toto Blanke-like fusion runs, the band is literally wrapped in glimmering cymbal ribbons. Wah-wah bass blabbers something behind as the guitar mesmerizes us with its vitality. Back to the illuminative march of the opening seconds, the trio crafts a forgotten classic of tri-modal jazz-rock avant-garde.
A very presto entrée reminds us of some of Association P.C.’s memorable moments. When the guitar loses its way, the exuberantly sparkling cymbals encourage Brettschneider to pick up speed. Which he does, but fails to schlep along the rest of the band. Contrary to naïve expectations, this now appears to be a prehensile improvisation for bipolar guitar and cymbal shimmer. The second movement is played largo with mallets gently laid on the drums. A neurotic, psyched-out guitar glides over the dreamlike bass steps. This highly addictive guitar play is rather unusual in the jazz format (if it is jazz at all, a big ‘IF’). With a slight echo thrown into the mix, the guitar self-observation gains plenty of transcendental freedom. The third movement of the Sonata is devoted to repeated striking guitar salvos, always abandoned on a higher note. The cross-chord technique would several years later be adopted by Henry Kaiser during his flagship atonal period. Here, Alois Kott’s bubbly bass germinates goofily. A molar drum solo purports to perform a rondo, but none of this is allowed to linger for too long. Sharp, incisive cuts from the guitar catalyze the Sonata’s ending.
Several years later, the trio returned with an equally exciting statement. On their last LP Michael Jüllich was replaced by Peter Eisold. The group continued to perform for several years without leaving any recorded traces. All the three albums are recommended for the lovers of continental jazz-rock (?) avant-garde.
CONTACT TRIO: “Double Face” (1974-1975)
CONTACT TRIO: “New Marks” (1978)
CONTACT TRIO: “Musik” (1980)
One later track can be found on festival LP entitled “Umsonst und Draussen – Papenburg”.