Another future was grasped by Stefan Bauer in 1988, when the forward thinking vibraphone player took a few steps sideways from jazz as we usually know it to investigate the tonal variety of marimba, mallet synthesizer and keyboards. It took 10 years for Silent Witness to be encoded in silver disc; such a strange world.
Superb though he is in the center and left fields, Silent Witness impresses as a more personal music. The small, floating cast of players numbers such likewise open minded individuals as percussionists Ramesh Shotham (on South Indian instruments) and Christoph Haberer, drummer Thomas Alkier and globe spanning saxophonist Charlie Mariano. Bauer still swings like crazy when he wishes, but the emphasis here is on the new voices of different surfaces the wood song of the marimba, the warped notes of the mallet trigger, the international chatter of hand and machine driven rhythms, the cut of Mariano’s alto and soprano and the contrasting authority of Matthias Nadolny’s tenor saxophone, a flurry of Bauer’ s own piano. If the sheer eventfulness of tracks such as “Chimère” is daunting, take refuge in the cool, closing,”For All That”.
– Randall McIlroy – Winnipeg Uptown 01/99
Vibraphonist and multi-instrumentalist Stefan Bauer owns an impressive
and diverse resume, especially at the educational level. Born in Germany,
Bauer has also taken up residency in Canada.
Bauer possesses a smooth touch while displaying compelling doses of
lyricism, sure-handed control and technique. Most of all, Bauer flaunts
his well-schooled approach and challenges the listener with inventive
compositions and rhythmic structures. Bauer dabbles with midi-controllers
and programmed percussion; yet, doesn’t abuse digital electronics within
the scope of his pieces. This old trap has often branded ill advised and
less than desirable results for many jazz musicians. Bauer mixes it up
rather well; hence, “Silent Witness” is a multifaceted project, which
incorporates explorations of fusion, world, mainstream and modern jazz.
Bauer does a good job of maintaining a unique and personal sound while
borrowing from other concepts and influences.
On the opener “Chimere” Bauer utilizes his arsenal of Vibes, Midi,
Marimba and keyboards. Bauer leads the band through demanding and
structured rhythmic movements, under-pinning the soaring Soprano and
Alto-Sax work of the legendary Charlie Mariano. Bauer and co. explore
cross-cultural settings while seeking new horizons. “Chimere” is a bright,
gleeful and upbeat piece featuring some enthusiastic percussion exercises
from Christoph Haberer and Ramesh Shotham. A minor beef here might be the
recorded sound of Mariano’s Sax. His overall sound seems equalized or
engineered too high; thus, sounding somewhat tinny and metallic. A minor
complaint that doesn’t kill the tune but becomes apparent or a little too
obvious at times. “Blueseoul” finds Bauer employing programmed rhythms,
vibes and synths serving as the underlying framework for a warm and
lightly swinging “blues motif. Here, Bauer prevails while displaying his
total command of the Vibes as the lead instrument. Ag! ain, Bauer shows
off his enormous technique yet excels at delighting the listener with his
keen penchant for nuance and subtly. Stefan Bauer is a fierce and dynamic
vibraphonist yet at times, plays so soft and graceful one wonders if he
could break eggs with his mallets. On “Beyond The Beyond” Bauer and co.
construct a dreamlike atmosphere with gradual and steady increments of
percussion crescendos. Bauer creates soundscapes of glistening timbre and
vivid imagery. “Warndat, die n: 14 ? “ is reminiscent of late 1970’s
Weather Report. Here, Bauer works through difficult time changes utilizing
Vibes, Midi, Sequencing and Electronic Percussion. This track succeeds in
emulating a “band feel”.
“Silent Witness” has a lot to offer. Bauer’s education, compositional
prowess, practical experience and superb musicianship accounts for an
abundant array of pleasantries found on this recording. Stefan Bauer will
more than likely position himself as a much in demand session musician and
leader. His versatility is apparent and commendable while the band is in
top-notch form throughout. If you want to hear something that’s different
yet very palatable, check out “Silent Witness”.
Personnel: Stefan Bauer; Vibes, Marimba, kat Midi-Controller,
Percussion, Sequencing, Piano, Keyboards: Charlie Mariano; Saxes: Matthias
Nadoiny; Tenor Sax: Ramesh Shotham; Percussion: Christoph Haberer; Drums,
Drum Programming: Volker Heinze; Bass: Thomas Alkier; Drums.
– Glenn Astarita All About Jazz 02/99