When was the last time jazz made you laugh? I mean more than just smirking at Dexter Gordon when he drops a few bars of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in the middle of a fat tenor solo, I mean a real guttural belly-laugh at some clowning cat’s shenanigans, some dope just dumb enough to hoo and haw his way through the music like Spike Jones when he mauled the classics. Only a select cadre of holy fools, and mostly Europeans and ex-pats at that, have dared to take the sacred cow off its pedestal for some much needed roughhousing. Which leads this writer to believe that Carl Ludwig Hübsch’s absurdly titled trio, The Longrun Development of the Universe, is one of the best places our music can be after the protracted death rattle of its socio-cultural relevance, having a few laughs on its way back to the fairground.
Hübsch, who composes and plays tuba, set up his trio with tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert and trombone giant Wolter Wierbos almost ten years ago—The Universe is a Disk (Leo, 2008) being their third LP together. (God only knows what the first two sound like, I’d love to hear them.) I must admit that Mr. Hübsch’s formal contributions to the James Choice Orchestra, a group he co-directs with Schubert and which I reviewed back in 2008, was not among my favorites when considering that album’s highlights. But that was a 23-member orchestra interpreting the music of Luciano Berio. Put Hübsch into a smaller setting and he becomes a raging slob, his tuba puttering around in this percussionless assembly with put-on solemnity during “The Common Determinator”, a Carl Stalling-inspired piece that finds the three players chasing each other’s tails with crisp licks, deep gurgles and brass farts, coughing fits, pulsating whistles and sudden cessations of sound whenever someone cries out STOP! and others respond alternately with SEKUNDE! MOMENTE! HALT! NEIN! and the all-time worst insult one German can call another, PEDANT!!! “Common Indetermination” and “Another Determinator” complete what C.L.H. envisions to be side one of his disc, the “Upperside”: indetermination referring to a structured improv based around extended techniques, all breathy harmonics, clattering mouthpieces and mutes, scraped edges, delicately wavering tones that hover on the edge of audibility—much more thrilling than my description—and the next composition returning to looney tune territory with lyrics like “Just let it wash right over you, stuff your hand into the front of your pants and sit or kneel” and “Shall I rub you with sunscreen? Your brain needs shade,” bellowed in a priceless croon halfway to growl while Schubert really contorts himself hoarse and the other members plod on in all seriousness.
The “Underside” is not nearly such a riot, more of that quiet acoustic minimalism, but really, it’s dynamite, and you can always count on the trio to step back from their burden as Serious Avant-Garde Musicians to holler like a coupla boys in a dank beer hall. In another lifetime, they would have emerged as The Stooges or The Godz… because we all know free music is just another way to get yer ya-yas out.