All about Jazz, NYC, by Troy Dostert
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (five stars)
„ […] I Am Three involves a playful, energetic, utterly infectious exploration of the work of Charles Mingus. To tackle some of Mingus’s best-known (and a few less-known) pieces without a bass instrument—or piano, for that matter—requires a certain audacity […] and here it works wonderfully, largely due to [the] clever arrangements and the top-flight musicianship on display.
One conscious choice […] was to go short: that is, to limit the length of the pieces to around three to four minutes each on average. This boils each song down to its core, a distillation process that reminds us of how beautiful and profound Mingus’s melodies were—something that could be obscured amidst the musical pyrotechnics of his sprawling live recordings in particular. In addition, the written horn parts for Eberhard and Neuser are outstanding. One never misses the richness of a larger group, even on an iconic big-band cut like „Moanin.'“ Surprisingly, Eberhard’s alto works perfectly for that opening phrase Pepper Adams’s baritone made famous, and from there she and Neuser, fueled by Marien’s relentless groove, produce a tour-de-force of trio improvising.
None of this would be possible without the phenomenal chops of these musicians. Both Eberhard and Neuser are capable of playing squarely in the pocket and also venturing out into the extremes of improvisation as well, although always in service to the music. They have an outstanding rapport, really digging into simultaneous solo passages that complement each other perfectly. And an absolutely essential component of this trio is the chameleon-like drumming of Marien. He’s as likely to offer a funk-or rock-based beat as a straight swing rhythm, and his shape-shifting contributions do the most to give this recording its contemporary feel. The funky groove he moves in and out of on „Fables of Faubus“ is irresistible in offering a completely distinctive flavor to the piece. Finally, we also have some of Eberhard’s trademark quirks and idiosyncracies as well, just to keep the listener a little unmoored. „Jelly Roll“ deliberately winks at the way the record as a whole is in dialogue with the past, by interspersing an „old-timey“ vinyl sound (pops and crackles included) with the much more polished, digital-era sound of the rest of the track. And judicious use of electronics adds to the atmospheric quality of „Eclipse“ and „Canon.“
Of the many ways in which this record honors Mingus, it’s really its spirit of inventiveness that stands out the most. A terrific accomplishment, and a strong contender for one of 2016’s best releases. „
DownBeat Magazin, NYC, by Kurt Gottschalk
★ ★ ★ ★ (four stars)
[…] boldness in approach and interpretation, and that’s every bit as true for Mingus Mingus Mingus, […] which takes the great man’s sentiment, “I am three,” as a band name. The music is stripped down to an unlikely trio of sax, trumpet (Nikolaus Neuser) and drums (Christian Marien), leaving Mingus’ two instruments (bass and piano) by the wayside.
It’s only by virtue of their economically crafty arrangements that the re-workings never seem thin or hollow. So confident are they in their approach that by “Jelly Roll,” the ninth of 12 tracks on this CD, they begin to dampen melodic sections as if to underscore how full the rest of the album sounds.
That’s only after a round of successes, of course. The trio marches through Better Get Hit In Yo’ Soul,” does a pounding rendition of “Moanin’” and plays a wonderfully lyrical “Self-Portrait In Three Colors” (underscoring again Mingus’s trifurcated personality).
“Fables Of Faubus” is filled out by some exceptional mute-work by Neuser, and throughout the session Marien capably fills the lower register with bass and toms. The group’s “Orange Was The Color Of Her Dress, Then Blue Silk” uses the dual linearity of the two front line instruments to great advantage, making it dance.
Mingus looms all too large in progressive jazz of the last century to ever be forgotten. He’s too enigmatic a figure to replicate. To varying degrees, such diverse figures as Jean Derome, Joni Mitchell and Hal Willner—not to mention the standing Mingus Big Band and Mingus Orchestra—have attempted to fit into his shoes. This German double-horn trio stands up with the best of them.