the bandreviews pictures mp3 sounds July 02: new CD



10 years of "Der Rote Bereich"

Der Rote Bereich
Carlos Bica's Azul
Erdmann 3000
Yuri Honing:
Wired Paradise

Dejan Terzic's

Rainer Tempel



An anniversary ? The gentlemen with the strange suits, turned up collars and those extraordinary sideburns still seem bright and lively - yet: Der Rote Bereich has turned ten years and there´s a lot to celebrate. Due to its idiosyncratic music, its anarchistic humour, intelligent arrangements and original sound, Der Rote Bereich is regarded as "the most important representative of German avantgarde jazz" ( Der Tagesspiegel ) - though our gentlemen would only accept the term "avantgarde" if it wasn´t to pigeonhole them.
The group was founded in 1992 in Nuremberg by guitarist Frank Möbus along with bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall. The quintet was completed by American trombonist Marty Cook, Henning Sieverts on bass and Jim Black on drums - known from the New York Knitting Factory scene - with whom Möbus works up to this day in Carlos Bica´s "Azul".


Despite all the transformations the group has gone through, Möbus and Mahall always had a forming influence through their quest for fresh sounds, their ambiguous compositions - inspired by pop and rock music as well as jazz and twelve-tone music and their very own energetic way of playing - way beyond any conventions, clichés and commercial considerations. They run contrary to one´s musical preconceptions, amazing us with unexpected metric and harmonic changes or subversive ironic reinterpretations - thus seducing a much younger audience, to whom traditional jazz concerts had not appealed much hitherto.


The group´s first release, laconically entitled "Der Rote Bereich 1", had its live premiere at the Nuremberg "Jazz Ost West" festival in 1992 and was praised as "this festival´s discovery" due to their "original music, inspired soloes and stunningly new sounds en gros" (Nürnberger Nachrichten). From the beginning they played the big festivals, did numerous radio productions and with their distinctive style advanced to be the antithesis of conventional jazz.


Three years later "Der Rote Bereich 2" was released - the line-up had changed to a quartet, the bass was left out and Hal Crook, long-standing member of the Phil Woods Quintet, replaced Marty Cook - and "Jazzpodium" stated admiringly : "Since their first explorations of the borders of through composed music and improvised music, the band acquired veritable
cult status. In Germany there is hardly any comparably complex, astonishingly simple, refreshingly self-ironic and at every moment interesting music."


In 1998 - Möbus und Mahall had moved to Berlin - John Schröder replaced Jim Black on drums and the trombone was left out. "Der Rote Bereich 3" was released and for the next two years the trio would be touring throughout Europe, playing festivals like the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival in New York, JazzFest Berlin, Amsterdam Jazzfestival or the Triennale of Cologne, was sent by the Goethe Institut to tour Africa and was celebrated by "Jazzthetik" magazine as "one of the most exciting jazz groups in Germany".


2001 would turn out to be an extremely successful year. Up to then all albums had been released on the label Jazz4Ever Records. In January 2001the new album "Love me tender" was released on the label ACT and Der Rote Bereich played big festivals like Montreux or Istanbul, was invited to do a "Jeunesse musicale" tour throughout Austria and was awarded the culture grant of the city of Nuremberg. Feature writers of newspapers such as "Die Zeit" and "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" were in rare agreement on their music : " the three Berliners are amongst the best you´ll hear in contemporary jazz" ("Frankfurter Rundschau"), "music by bright minds" (Die Welt)... .



Their music developped further - despite all continuity - and the conceptual changes due to Möbus´ new compositions made a last transformation necessary: John Schröder was replaced by Oliver Bernd Steidle, regarded as one the rising talents in Germany. And so in March 2002 the three of them recorded their latest album called "Risky business" (ACT 9407-2). This fifth CD will be released in July 2002 and could turn out to be a milestone in the group´s history. Der Rote Bereich derive pleasure from musical seriousness and as it was stated in the info that accompanied their very first CD: "Music deals with life but life doesn´t necessarily deal with music" - and this you can hear ! To listen to their music is an intellectual as well as sensual adventure which is not for one moment a mundane voyage...



Marty Cook about "Der Rote Bereich"
(from the liner notes of CD "Love me tender")


When writing liner notes it's always difficult figuring out ways to promote a group without falling into the usual cliches - every group is innovative, the players maestros, the playing masterful and the group interaction intuitive to the point of being extra-sensory. In this case, however, such praise is no hyperbole. Der Rote Bereich literally translates as "the red area", and is a referral to the red zone which indicates distortion on the recording level meter of most recording machines. "Der Rote Bereich" is appropriately named; the group's music brazenly skirts the outrageous as it traverses the ground between sublime and ridiculous.


The group was founded in 1992 in Nuremberg by guitarist Frank Möbus along with bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall, and almost immediately acquired cult status among Jazz cognoscenti. Der Rote Bereich has since gone through several transformations before settling in Berlin as a trio with drummer John Schröder. The three have impressive credentials. Frank Möbus studied at the renowned Berklee School of Music in Boston. He has since played with the likes of Kenny Wheeler, Ray Anderson, Maria João, Herb Robertson and drummer Jim Black.
Rudi Mahall is one of the few musicians I know who has absorbed the music of Thelonius Monk, Ornette Coleman and Eric Dolphy. He plays with pianist Aki Takase in a duo wich concentrates on Dolphy's music, and works with Alexander von Schlippenbach, Paul Lovens and Conny Bauer.
John Schröder has been playing professionally since the age of 15. The masterful multi-instrumentalist plays drums, guitar, piano, and bass, and has worked with Chet Barker, Randy Brecker, Joe Lovano, and Herb Geller.

Besides extensive tours, Der Rote Bereich has appeared at a number of Jazz festivals like in 1999 the trio appeared at the Bell Atlantic Jazz Festival in New York, the Berlin Jazz Festival, the Trytone Festival in Amsterdam, in instanbul and Montreaux.


They have recorded three CDs. The current production, Love Me Tender, is their fourth, and the first with ACT. To my ears it's their best yet. The music can't be pigeon-holed. The influences are eclectic and universal - and the three cannibalize anything that suits their taste at the time. Yet the sounds contain a uniquely European flavor.


The music this group is making is as fresh (in both meanings of the word) and innovative as anything on the current world scene - the day has passed when the rest of the world must look towards America for every innovation and inspiration in jazz-influenced modern music. All three contribute individual compositions to Love Me Tender, but in a sense, given the freewheeling disregard for conventional jazz structure and the interplay between the three, each piece is a spontaneous communal composition.


Der Rote Bereich has developed a uniquely personal music that is as expressive and wide-ranging as the furthest limits of our senses. It may challenge some musical pre-conceptions of what can and can't be combined or torn apart, used or abused, but after all what's life without a few surprises, a little excitement, a little danger.