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Johannes Bauer

The elder member of the trombone-bonny Bauer family, Johannes Bauer is the one with the longest discography and perhaps the highest profile on the free jazz scene, although no one would suggest that kid brother Connie Bauer isn't giving him a run for his money. Avant-garde music listeners have plenty of opportunities to compare the brothers, as they regularly work together on projects such as the group Doppelmoppel, combining two electric guitars and two trombones, and the album Bauer, Bauer, which is self-explanatory. The Bauer dynasty were key players on the East German jazz scene of the '70s, in fact it would be hard to imagine the rowdy free jazz of that former country without the exciting trombone playing of Johannes Bauer. Connie Bauer spent less years as a part of the actual East German scene before the Berlin Wall came down and the country itself vanished, along with an entire network of subsidized clubs and gigs that had been the source of a reasonable income for the country's musicians. Not so for Johannes Bauer, whose earliest recordings were done for the state-run Amiga label. Thrust into the now-unified German arts scene, Johannes Bauer became one of the more outspoken advocates of a return to the former system, or at least some aspects of it. Bauer was born in the '50s in the city of Halle on the Saale River, the area which American G.I.'s once referred to as "a dally on the Saale." He studied music in Berlin and, beginning in the late '70s, was a freelance improvising musician as well as the leader of several workshop bands in which he presents his own special compositions created for ensembles of like-minded players. Some of the groups he performed with regularly during the period of the divided Germany included the Manfred Schulze Bläserquintett, with which he recorded several different and excellent projects, and the Ulrich Gumpert Workshop. Bauer also was a regular member of the rowdy band Slawterhaus, featuring violinist Jon Rose, and had a long-running relationship with the bearded Belgian pianist Fred Van Hove. When large bands are assembled on the European continent, the phone book inevitably is opened to the letter "B" when it is time to put together the trombone section. Alexander von Schlippenbach's Globe Unity Orchestra, British bassist Barry Guy's New Orchestra, the Tony Oxley Orchestra , the Peter Brötzmann März Combo, and free jazz giant Cecil Taylor's European Orchestra are some of the large groups that have featured this Bauer, and sometimes both of them. On the other hand, North American audiences are more likely to have seen Johannes Bauer in the much smaller setting of a duo, since he performed in many venues across North America in the late '90s in a duo with his longtime partner Fred Van Hove; inspiring some great review comments such as, "this is not the typical kind of smooth jazz audiences are used to in the Tampa Bay area." Achtung!
© Eugene Chadbourne /TiVo
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