Ullmann's German career followed a parallel path. After traditional and jazz studies in Hamburg, he moved to Berlin in 1983, just about the same time that Swell came to New York. A well-trained multi-instrumentalist and already an accomplished composer, he fell immediately into the heterogeneous musical environment of Germany's cultural capitol. His early recordings reflect the multiple streams of tradition characteristic of Berlin's musical world, using instruments such as the accordion and referencing a broad range of sources, from older jazz forms to European avant-garde traditions to Kurt Weill. He plays many instruments, but now focuses on tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, and the bass flute. Like Swell, he leads a number of groups--from duets and trios to larger ensembles--and has recently been performing solo.
Swell and Ullmann come from different backgrounds and play different instruments, but they have many things in common, including a love of composition as well as improvisation and a highly physical approach to playing. This is hardly tame music: framed by the leaders' compositions, the improvisations are often extremely dynamic, and the main focus is on musical interaction. In tandem with bassist Hill Greene and the pioneering drummer Barry Altschul, they will roar at the Kerrytown Concert House on April 10.
[Originally published in April, 2011.]