Günter “Baby” Sommer – Le Piccole Cose: Live at Theater Gütersloh (Intuition)
Although Le Piccole Cose is the ninth volume in a series of “European Jazz Legends” recordings, Sommer remains an unknown quantity to plenty of American music lovers. Fortunately, the latest album by the drummer, cut at a gig in Germany on Halloween 2016, serves as a terrific introduction to a man who, though in his early 70s, remains a seemingly indefatigable force of nature.
“Like Don,” the first track here, doesn’t exactly ease listeners into the experience. A sharp vocal “Hey!” from Sommer is followed an instant later by a fearsome cymbal crash and a tumbling tour of the kit that precedes the rest of the band: saxophonist/clarinetist Gianluigi Trovesi, trumpeter/flugelhornist Manfred Schoof and bassist Antonio Borghini. The ebullient opening theme soon gives way to solos by Schoof, Trovesi and Borghini that race along at breakneck speed in part because Sommer is hot on their heels. They clearly realize that if they slow down for an instant, he’ll plow right over them, moaning with joy as he does so.
“Inside Outside Shout,” which follows, features more Sommer vocalizations: tongue rolls, grunts and random ululations that are both primitive and rapturous. Schoof gladly cedes center-stage during this exhibition, adding muted accents prior to the arrival of Borghini and Trovesi, whose aural flurries inspire Sommer to even greater heights of ecstasy. Thank goodness the number is succeeded by the languorous “Mellow Mood” or else both the musicians and the audience would have been in danger of spontaneous combustion.
Not that the other tunes offer Sommer and his comrades much of a break. The 10-minute-plus “No Parietto” is practically an athletic feat, with the only respite provided by the drummer’s charming scatting. Elsewhere, “Marias Miroloi” uses group drones as a framing device for a muscular Sommer spotlight and “Andartes” allows the drummer to get martial by way of a pattern whose simplicity sacrifices nothing in the way of power.
All of which makes getting to know Sommer the purest of pleasures.