gebhard ullmann
steve swell
hill greene
barry altschul

gebhard ullmann (tenor saxophone & bass clarinet)

the 'ullmann/swell 4' is the latest format of gebhard ullmann and steve swell with bassist hill greene and legendary drummer barry altschul.
this emotional and intense quartet was founded in 2004 and toured in the u.s. and canada in the same year.
in october and november of 2006 the 'ullmann/swell 4' performed in europe for the first time and got raving reviews.
more tours in the u.s. and canada followed 2007 and 2008.
the quartet performed on 2008's vision festival in new york city and was called by many one of the highlights of the festival.
a european tour in september/october 2010 will be followed by a tour through the usa and canada in april 2011.
two new cds were released in 2010. 'news? no news!' recorded at brooklyn's systems two studio on the berlin based label jazzwerkstatt and a live recording from montreal's casa del popolo on the us label cimpol.

'live in montreal' (cimpol 2010)
'news? no news!'
(jazzwerkstatt 2010)
'desert songs and other landscapes' (cimp 2004)

video on youtube (click):
live at the nigglmühle 2010

some quotes:

bruce gallanter (downtown music gallery) about 2008's concert at the vision festival in new york city:

"   friday the 13th of june was another weird night of extremes. the
first set featured gebhard ullmann on bass clarinet & sax, steve
swell on trombone, hill greene on bass and barry altschul on drums
and this was one truly great set ! both gebhard and steve are
both fine composers as well as players. they lead a
variety of different projects and each is engaging in its own way.
the rhythm team was marvelous and consistently creative. barry
altschul is an amazing drummer who has worked with giants like paul
bley, anthony braxton, chick corea, dave holland and
many more. after a period of inactivity, he is back and in full
creative force, working perfectly with bass great hill greene. each
piece was a different challenge and a couple of these pieces reminded
me of the exuberant spirit of the blue notes. this quartet just
recorded as well, so we look forward to their new disc."

tom sekowski (the livemusicreport) in an article about a concert at the goethe house in toronto on april 4, 2007. entitled "in your face blast of coherent force":

" it wasn't the volume that turned me on about this quartet's performance. i was expecting this mother to be loud and ferocious. rather, it was a perfect mixture of ideal acoustics and interplay between all four members that made me sit up and gawk in amazement ...
while swell manipulated his trombone and pushed the slider as far out as it would go, you could hear the spittle bursting from his mouth. put together with ullmann's ferociously underplayed bassclarinet, the sound was an ecstatic way to start what would turn out to be a great concert ...
the exceptionally strong rhythm section moved things along with a certain urgency. altschul kept popping the skins with full head-on power, while greene continually plucked the strings of his bass with a dead-set agenda in his mind ...
one of the golden moments during the show was an improvised section where greene was forcing the strings to sound like ullmann's bass clarinet pops, while ullmann was matching the aural qualities of greene's bass. at times like this, one starts to truly appreciate the sense and reason of communal improvisation. though this was improvised music, there was no mistaking these pieces were all written by either swell or ullmann. sheets of music were flying all across the stage, while each member read their part in the game that was proceeding too quickly.
the music was tight, with both leaders throwing literal musical punches at each other. when ullmann switched to tenor, he was a sheer monster. the fat tones blowing from swell's trombone were crazy in their abundance and satisfying in terms of their variety of tone and texture ..
clocking in at one hour the show left some wanting more. with a certain hunger in my head, i left the room quite satiated, knowing this was an outstanding musical event."

photo by jos l. knaepen (brugge 3/03)
download photo here (size 18x12 cm / 300dpi / 603kb)

scott yanow (allmusic guide, usa '05) about 'desert songs and other landscapes'

" this is a fiery set full of explorative colorful solos and dynamic group interplay."

jay collins (one final note, usa 1/'05) about 'desert songs and other landscapes'

" the road-tested results that define these absorbing compositions verify the deep commitment that these players have to the music. with each undertaking of desert songs and other landscapes, the group's goal of earnest communication proves quite compelling."

laurence donohue-greene (all about jazz, new york) about a concert at the brecht forum in nyc in october 2005:

" ...forthright in their solos, uptempo and ballads alike - ullmann and swell's thick, dynamic harmonies melded seamlessly, showing why trombone and tenor have had such a lucrative relationship in jazz. for this group, ullmann consciously and impressively showcases his flexibility and expertise on tenor over his other 'first' instrument - the bass clarinet. reminiscent of the ny art quartet this quartet's tight heads and arrangements, intertwining improvisations around highly structured pieces, demanded undivided attention."

steve swell

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(367 kb)

born in newark, new jersey, steve swell has been living, working and performing in new york city for all of his adult life. he has toured and recorded with such diverse jazz personalities as mainstreamers lionel hampton and buddy rich, to so-called outsiders like anthony braxton, william parker and jemeel moondoc. swell has twelve recordings as a leader or co-leader and is a featured artist on more than sixty other releases.

he first came to public attention performing with makanda ken mcintyre in the multi-instrumentalist's concert at carnegie recital hall in 1985. he toured and recorded with altoist tim berne and his group 'caos totale.'  (two cds on the jmt label). during this time steve also toured and recorded with joey baron's 'barondown' who released three cds on jmt, new world and avant.

even though he is identified with the 'downtown scene' swell has been developing his style in the more so-called 'traditional avant-garde' arena. co-leading projects such as 'space, time, swing' with perry robinson, being a sideman in william parker's 'little huey creative music orchestra' and working with other similar people has kept him on this circuit.

his newest cd, 'unified theory of sound, this now' featuring jemeel moondoc, cooper-moore, wilber morris, kevin norton and matt laVelle, was released on the cadence label in march 2003. swell was a featured soloist in anthony braxton's opera, 'shala fears for the poor'.

hill greene

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(329 kb)

hilliard 'hill' greene is an extraordinary musician and composer. for the past fifteen years, he has served as bassist and musical director for the great jimmy scott and the jazz expressions. notably, he has also played and recorded with dave douglas, charles gayle, oliver lake, jack walrath, and kenny barron. a rare bassist who not only exemplifies the art of swing through his masterful walking bass lines, hill greene also brings something entirely new and fresh to the instrument.

barry altschul

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(338 kb)

in the early '70s, altschul was the drummer for the influential band circle - a band which also included chick corea, dave holland and anthony braxton. his drumming with that band was stylistically all-encompassing - in his own words, "from ragtime to no time" - thanks to his background in traditional jazz styles, which gave him a solid grounding on which to build his free playing. altschul's sound is very tight and exceedingly well-defined. a strict attention to rhythmic and tonal detail has always characterized his playing.

altschul played regularly with pianist paul bley; their relationship continued intermittently through the '70s and '80s. he was a member of the 'jazz composer's guild' and the 'jazz composer's orchestra association' from 1964-68. in the '70s, he recorded with the individual members of circle. in '72, under holland's leadership, the classic album 'conference of the birds' with braxton and saxophonist sam rivers. around this time he also made records with bley, bassist alan silva, and pianist andrew hill, among others.

in the '80s, altschul made records of his own for soul note and continued his sideman work with such musicians as pianist simon nabotov and kenny drew, sr.
altschul's 1985 album 'that's nice' shows him to be an exciting and good-humored bandleader in a rather modern-mainstream vein.

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