The Last Concert - Dankeschön SHCD 151
Thomas Borgmann - tenor / soprano / sopranino sax
egyptian double flute
Wilber Morris - bass
Denis Charles - drums
1. Nasty And Sweet (Borgmann / Morris / Charles) 35:04
2. Bird Bath (Borgmann / Morris / Charles) 31:08
3. Dankeschön (Borgmann / Morris / Charles) 7:12
Total time: 73:29
Listen to an excerpt in MP3 format.
German born saxophonist Thomas Borgmann was the last of a long line of hornmen to perform to the accompaniment of the famous rhythm team of Wilber Morris and Denis Charles.
Earlier hornmen fired and inspired by Wilber and Denis have included David Murray, Charles Tyler, Claude Lawrence, Booker T. Williams, Bob Ackerman and Marco Eneidi.
The Borgman/Morris/Charles Trio appeared at the Jazz auf Reisen Festival in Weiden in der Oberpfalz, Germany on March 6th, 1998, and this became the very final date for Denis Charles who died very shortly thereafter.
The CD is released in memory of Denis Charles, who played fabulously well on this his final engagement.
I was not present in Weiden in der Oberpfalz during the Jazz auf Reisen concert by the Borgmann/Morris/Charles Trio in Max Reger Hall on March 6th, 1998, on what I'm told was a very rainy day.
There were two sets and the music for each set was quite different. The audience was extraordinarily quiet and attentive and evidently quite close to the musicians on stage.
The improvisations were trancelike in their intensity, and it speaks wonders for the fine German engineering of the Bavarian Radio sound team that they were able to capture the music so well.
When applause broke out it immediately became clear how big the hall was and how many people were there to enjoy these performances by the trio, that took place halfway through a five week tour which closed with another splendid concert in Berlin on March 20th.
The trio had already toured Europe twice, during April 1997 and again in November 1997.
Old-timer Rune Persson, perhaps best known as the recording engineer on a big proportion of the recordings in the 'Count Basie Orchestra' Mosaic box, worked on the mastering and editing of the tape.
His main men seem to be Jimmy Guiffre and Count Basie, and he's handled a lot of fine sessions in his day.
Rune expressed surprise at how hard some of this free music swung, a fairly miraculous concept for a man dyed in Count Basie wool.
He's right though. The bass and drums team of Wilber Morris and Denis Charles has always been able to swing on a dime as long as I remember them, and that's close on twenty five years.
Back then they had altoist Charles Tyler, tenorist David Murray or altoist Claude Lawrence out front. Later on the duo worked with altoist Luther Thomas, tenorist Booker T. Williams and reed specialist Bob Ackerman.
There were others too, like violinist Billy Bang and tenorist Frank Lowe, but the last saxist to be out front with this duo was assuredly Thomas Borgmann, a German reed artist of stamina and lyric passion, who says he is a saxophone romanticist and who is certainly a gifted improviser.
Wilber Morris, Denis Charles and Thomas Borgmann were a compatible trio of improvising musicians who lived their music to the full, both on and off the stage.
The whole secret of their music is organic development, which demands that each listens carefully to what one another is doing, picking up conversational leads that sound promising and letting them mutually develop and expand between the threesome.
As long as everybody is listening the way they should - as they do here - it's a beautiful way to play music.
This is synergetic high art of free jazz - in truth the cooperative action of these members is greater than the sum of their independent endeavors.
A glance at the numerous voices of reviewers brings home that their real miracle is of being enabled to play night after night, concert after concert, in this way.
Wilber, in a recent conversation with author Val Wilmer, said, "I want you to know that our approach is strictly spontaneous, Denis and I had mutual ideas about spontaneous improvisation. We both came out of the 1960s, but I was on the west coast playing with Bobby Bradford, Arthur Blythe and Horace Tapscott (1965). So now we're really refining free jazz - Borgmann/Morris/Charles - and we were quite happy with the way things were going."
Wilber makes all kinds of wonderful things happen, and when he is on his own he swings like crazy! So does, or did, Denis Charles.
The two of them together are, or were, quite magical. So when Wilber told Ed Hazell (Cadence, February 1988), "It's the bass player and the drummer who really move the band", he was tapping into a lot of experience.
The bass and drums comprise two thirds of the group here so it can be no surprise that the music swings. This was their very last recording together and that makes it special as nothing else can.
Denis Charles, a disciple of Art 'Buhaina' Blakey and Cecil Taylor, played superbly during this concert. His sense of space and time is quite extraordinary.
Listen to the final cymbals splashes on "Nasty And Sweet", spaced out as if time had for practical purposes disappeared. There are other instances too where, with masterly perfection, Denis takes all the time he needs to complete his moves.
Right up to the final encore he gave his all, and as it ends he staggers from his drums and over towards the microphone at center stage to mumble, "Dankeschön, dankeschön, dankeschön," in that wonderfully gruff voice.
This was to be his final recording, and, a few short weeks later after returning to the U.S., Denis died on March 26th, 1998, in New York City.
Thomas Borgmann first came to the U.S.A. in 1996 and I was put in touch with him through Borah Bergman, a fine pianist I had been doing some things with.
So when Thomas came we met on the downtown Lower East Side, Denis, Thomas and myself and hacked out what we wanted to do.
We, before, had set up a concert at Context Studio's on the Lower East Side, this was to see if we could do something as a group, and we saw potential. So to work we went.
Because Denis and I were so much older we were grooming Thomas (smile), he is a fantastic player. He used to produce a lot of concerts in Berlin in the 1980s, besides playing.
A good human being. I hope this will give you some kind of idea what the trio was about. It was a nice group and still is, as a matter of fact, now called BMN Trio with Reggie Nicholson on drums.
Work was coming from both the U.S. and Europe. At the time of Denis's death I was working on a U.S.A. tour.
I thought that if the trio was liked so much in Europe why not do a tour of the U.S.A.?
Besides, Denis had never been around the U.S. and never to the west coast. So I set out to do this. Everyone said yes to the idea and I had gotten more than enough work for a tour. We were all happy that this was really going to happen.
Then March 26th Denis ascended to the heavens. And we continued on with Reggie Nicholson, who was one of our considerations in the beginning.
In September and October of 1998, BMN Trio had a 3 ½ week very successful tour of the U.S. and we naturally thought about Denis. In fact our last gig of the tour was a record date (CIMP Records) and one of the tunes was called "Goodbye Mr Charles".