Glenn Astarita - All About Jazz
Welf Dorr Unit: Blood
NY-based, German saxophonist Welf Dorr pilots this exciting multinational quartet through hardcore jazz fusion, funk, and detours into the solar system via these impressive pieces, often executed with tenacity and forthright intentions. Essentially, the band packs a massive punch as they grind out a diverse track mix with plenty of flare-ups, embellished with progressive jazz lines and blistering improvisations.
The band gets right to the point on the opener "Sympathicus," featuring Dave Ross' scorching electric guitar licks along with the leader's piercing lines atop drumming ace, Joe Hertenstein's zesty support. Here, the musicians enjoy a little bloodletting while toggling into the outside jazz realm. On "Blood" they dish out a hard-hitting funk rock groove with the frontline's wily unison runs amid Ross' distortion-spiked phrasings and Dorr's animated spirited attack atop Dmitry Ishenko's bulging bass patterns.
The quartet goes for the gusto during these kinetic performances. And they spin guitar legend James Blood Ulmer's "Big Tree" into a straightforward medium-tempo rocker in concert with Dorr's resonating extended notes, soulful lines and Hertenstein's pummeling tom rolls. Moreover, Ross' feverish riffs and the band's sinewy developments instill a sense that the musicians have become possessed with a take no prisoners line of attack.
Dorr and associates straddle the free zone, where semblances of convention seamlessly interact with mind-bending movements. Ross is often an instigator, partly evidenced on the thorny bop oeuvre "Outcry," where his speedy chord progressions and unorthodox phrasings tender an ominous vista. In sum, the artists breeze through several modulations and alter the pitch with chopping and soothing theme building installments, as they max out the needle on the fun factor gauge.
Bruce Lee Gallanter - Downtown Music Gallery Newsletter
WELF DORR UNIT With DAVE ROSS / DMITRY ISHENKO / JOE HERTENSTEIN - Blood
(Creative Sources 508; Portugal)
Featuring Welf Dorr on alto sax & bass clarinet, Dave Ross on guitar, Dmitry Ishenko on bass and Joe Hertenstein on drums. Local (?) reedman, Welf Dorr, just showed up here at DMG last week (5/6/18) and left us with a couple of discs. I didn’t know much about Mr. Dorr, although he has recorded with Sabir Mateen & Blaise Siwula and utilizes the talents of Downtown players we do know and love: Jonathan Finlayson, Shoko Nagai & Kenny Wolleson on Mr. Welf’s earlier CD. For this disc, Mr. Dorr has put together a serious quartet with Dave Ross on guitar (for Ras Moshe & William Hooker), Dmitry Ishenko (for Garrison Fewell & Jeff Platz) on bass and Joe Hertenstein (for HNH & Jon Irabagon) on drums.
The first thing I noticed about this disc was that the cover looks suspiciously like an earlier album cover by James Blood Ulmer, whose song they also cover and whose nickname, ‘Blood’ is the title of this disc. It should come as no surprise that the music does have that earlier Blood Ulmer-like jazz/rock/funk/punk demon drive! There is great fusion and there is lame (commercial) fusion. This is jazz-rock at its best and it rocks hard. I’ve heard the amazing yet often underrated guitarist Dave Ross with Ras Moshe before but not like the way he delivers here, smoking! The title tune, ‘Blood’, has that old Blood-like sly harmolodic groove/vibe: tight, sorta funky and made to help us feel better with that slamming groove. I like the way the quartet slow things down on “Dixie”, with Mr. Dorr switching to some haunting bass clarinet and Mr. Ross playing his guitar like is trying to break a chain that is holding us down. There are several guitar solos by Dave Ross which will blow your mind here, even at a soft volume, that stream of notes dances furiously like a magic carpet ride. Every once in a great while a disc appears and renews my faith in jazz/rock/fusion. This is the one! I am working on getting a gig for this band because I want to check them out live. You best dig in and go along for the ride with those in the know.
Dave Sumner - Bird is the Worm
Recommended: Welf Dorr Unit - "Blood"
This is powerful stuff. It’s powerful and throws a punch like it means it. But there’s a flow to this music, a lumbering, yet effortless grace to accompany the brutality, and that is the essence of its captivation. Welf Dorr Unit crafts its own version of avant-rock, of protest music that is no less useful to those who just want to stomp or groove for fun as it is for those who want a sonic clarion call to revolt. There’s a little funk to fuel the fire. There’s a bit of bop to propel the riot. Dorr’s alto sax-bass clarinet combo and Dave Ross’s guitar switch roles between match and flame. The bass and drums of Dmitry Ishenko and Joe Hertenstein coax the fire to greater heights and heat. There’s nothing about this album that isn’t cool. Blood exudes a presence that could level mountains.
Eyal Hareuveni - Salt Peanuts*
WELF DORR UNIT «Blood» CHANT RECORDS / CREATIVE SOURCES, CS508
Almost thirty years ago American guitarist James ‘Blood’ Ulmer coined the motto: Jazz is the Teacher, Funk in the Preacher (sung in his album «Are You Glad To Be In America?», Rough Trade, 1980). This motto inspired German, New York-based Welf Dorr to found in 2012 his own power group, the Welf Dorr Unit that would offer a like-minded urgent mix of funky-jazz with rock. The debut album of the Unit pays respect to Ulmer and is titled «Blood», recorded on June 2014, mastered two years later and released in its digital version by the newly founded New York label Chant Records and in its physical version by the Portuguese label Creative sources.
The Welf Dorr Unit features Dorr, who also plays in pianist Karl Berger’s Improvisers Orchestra and in drummer Kenny Wollesen’s Himalayas, on alto sax and bass clarinet, guitarist Dave Ross, bass player Dmitry Ishenko and drummer Joe Hertenstein. This Unit translates Ulmer experimental sonic vision of the early eighties through a tough, loud and muscular interplay, but without any attempt to attach any political implications to its work as Ulmer did.
Dorr is the obvious leader and has a warm, soulful tone, but choosing to follow Ulmer path obviously trigger unfavorable comparisons to the charismatic sax players David Murray and Oliver Lake who have played on Ulmer’s seminal album. The Unit finds its true calling when it dives deep into a heavy funky groove on the title-piece, «Two Down (One to Go)» or the ballad «Left Alone», leaving more space for the distinct voices of this quartet, especially the thorny, rhythmic work Ross and the massive drumming of Hertenstein.
Brad Cohen - Brooklyn Rail
May 18: Welf Dorr Unit record release at Nublu. Saxophonist Welf Dorr is out for Blood on the fittingly titled debut of his Unit. Like Sonny Sharrock’s touchstone Ask The Ages, or more recently Reclamation by Burning Ghosts, Dorr unleashes a brutal and blustery aural overload on Blood that floors the punk, metal, and funk-jazz pedal into high gear.
Spontaneous Music Tribune
Welf Dorr Unit Blood (Creative Sources , CD 2018)
Na finał dzisiejszej zbiorówki, kęs energetycznego electric jazzu, definitywnie już z Nowego Jorku! Postacią tytułową jest tu Welf Dorr, grający na saksofonie altowym i incydentalnie na klarnecie basowym, zaś wspierają go w formacji Unit: Dave Ross na gitarze elektrycznej, Dmitry Ishenko na gitarze basowej oraz Joe Hertenstein na perkusji. Krwawa płyta składa się z siedmiu kompozycji, w większości autorstwa lidera, trwa 43 minuty i 20 sekund, a została nagrana w okolicznościach studyjnych w 2014 roku.
Płytę otwiera utwór, który moglibyśmy określić, jako dynamiczną, jazz-rockową wariację na temat Lonely Woman Ornette Colemana. Sprawna sekcja, solidne improwizacje saksofonu i gitara, która zdaje się tu mieć najwięcej ciekawego do powiedzenia. Muzycy trzymają się jazzowego schematu temat/ improwizacje/ temat/ coda (z wariacjami), słucha się ich dokonań dalece sympatycznie, można od czasu do czasu coś zanucić i zwinnie potupać nogą. Czas odbiorcy mija bezstresowo, a my doskonale wiemy, że taką muzykę grało się w Wielkim Jabłku równie udanie ćwierć wieku temu (choćby formacja Lost Tribe, czy inne grupy związane stylistycznie z estetyką m-base). Jazz, rock, wiele akcentów funkowych i dramaturgiczna dominacja saksofonu i gitary (basówka gra bodaj jedno solo w trakcie całej płyty, perkusja chyba w ogóle).
Nieco spokojniejszy zdaje się być numer trzeci, gdy Dorr sięga po klarnet basowy. Nie jedyny raz świetną zmianę daje tu rockowo brzmiąca gitara, która zwinnie pętli się i swawoli. Ta ostatnia także udanie eksponuje się w utworze piątym. Płytę kwartetu wieńczą dwie obce kompozycje. Najpierw James Blood Ulmer i szczypta dobrze zinterpretowanej harmolodyki, z ciekawą strukturą rytmiczną, potem zaś Mel Waldron i balladowy finał płyty, z ciepłym altem, znów niebanalną gitarą i dobrym flowem basu. Roztańczony, nawet rozmarzony jazz dla średnio wymagających.
Mike Faloon - Go Metric
The other Night at Quinn's - The Welf Dorr Unit
The centerpiece of the stage at Quinn’s is the lava lamp Christmas tree. It’s tall and plastic and illuminated, lights slowly changing, rising and falling, undulating like a jellyfish. The consensus is that it needs to stay up year round. I’m not saying I want one at home, but here it belongs and there’s something about that tree that fits with the Welf Dorr unit.
Welf Dorr is part Johnny Carson, part Rick Wakeman. He’s a jovial host, grinning beneath his pork pie hat, genuinely amused and motivated by those with whom he shares the spotlight. He’s also fond of his effects, delay and phaser. Watching him hold his alto sax with one hand, twiddle and modulate with the other, brings me back to my prog rock days.
I heard something about the Welf Dorr Unit has me ready for sharp sounds, jagged sounds that jut out, get caught on anything that happens by. I expect sounds that don’t leave an easy-to-follow path. That will come later. Right now Dorr and guitarist Dave Ross surf whole notes. Ross is Dorr’s wingman. Maybe co-pilot is more apt. Ross has dozens of credits on his website. He lists the numerous types of music he’s played over the years, among them punk and hardcore. It’s a subtle distinction but it merits bonus points. (Kind of like that line from The Blues Brothers: “We have both kinds of music, country and western.”) Just to be clear, Ross is certainly more Doc Severinsen than Ed McMahon. Together Dorr and Ross sustain ideas that ease against the grain of the rhythm section, awash in the sounds of those effects boxes.
Dorr breaks out a bass clarinet for the next number, “Dixie,” which increases the sonic distance between he and Ross and points the band in a different direction. Drummer Joe Hertenstein swells on the cymbals, rising but not bursting. Along with the traditional line up of cymbals—hi-hat, crash, ride—he’s added some unusual characters. One is a 5” mini-cymbal mounted on his hi-hat stand. Dangling from an unused rack tom mount is the other, the remains of a battered and torn (crash?) cymbal. The thing looks like a chunk of shrapnel. I don’t know how he avoids slicing himself every time his arms pass near it.
I flash back to yesterday, when I took my daughter to Dia:Beacon. It was her first museum visit. She was amped up. She wanted to draw everything she saw and write captions and copy down the artists’ names. This was all her, no prodding—or even hoping, initially—on my part.
I followed her lead most of the afternoon. Until we came to Robert Smithson’s “Map of Broken Glass (Atlantis).” That’s when I wanted to rush her along. As the title implies it’s made of broken glass. What the title leaves out is that the glass is laid out on the floor and piled high, a good foot, foot and a half, with an area of twenty by fifteen, just lying there. It’s meticulously crafted and, no doubt, reflects ample deliberation. But it’s still broken glass on the floor. A trap ready to spring. There’s no border, no barrier. It’s you and the glass. The late Smithson claimed “map.” I say “menacing mound.” It creeped me out. Maggie maintained a level head. She took her time, laughing and sketching. She wrote, “Glass! Glass! Run away!”
I did my best not to urge her along—model patience, man, model patience!—but even when we moved on I kept looking back. I knew the mass wasn’t going to mobilize. I assumed that no one trip and fall. Still, I looked back just to check.
Hertenstein dodges tragedy time and again, avoids clashing with that cymbal. He locks in with bassist Dmitry Ishenko. I expect Dorr and Ross to follow suit, succumb to the rhythm section’s gravitational pull. But they don’t. I should know by now.
“Dixie” gives way to “Sympaticus,” flows so smoothly that I’m unclear whether it’s one song or two. If the first part of the set was “Songs That Echo,” then we’re now in the midst of “Songs That Swell.” The rhythm section builds tension while Dorr and Ross resist, persist with their cough syrup ways.
Dorr holds for a bar here, two there. He adjusts the effects boxes, though less often now. Ross leans back and into the sound. This is where he and Dorr dive in, right? Not yet. Instead they remain the relative calm at the center of the storm, reveling in the subtle, unresolved tension. This could go wrong—easily, horribly. But it’s less like a ballgame that ends in a tie and more like a short story's ambiguous ending; there’s work to do, things to sort out. It’s a welcome process.
The next number is a different tale. Dorr introduces it as a “free take on Mal Waldron’s ‘Left Alone.’” Despite the tune’s keyboard origins this version belongs to Ross. In short order he renders it a “Song That Rocks” ramping it up and sailing a sea of pyrotechnics, pulling the room together in “Holy crap!” awe.
Dorr smiles, laughs. He looks for someone to revel with. He turns to Ishenko but I think his eyes are closed. Dorr scans the crowd, seeking a “Can you believe this?” connection.
Between songs Dorr introduces the band. He lingers on Ishenko, and deservedly so; he’s a remarkable talent. His style is easy going, from his right hand resting on the body of his bass to his eye glasses/ beard/Chaucer-thesis-brewing-in-the-back-of-the-brain appearance. Some take life in stride. Others, like Ishenko, do so standing still.
“We thought he was Russian, but he’s Ukrainian. We seriously thought of renaming the band Free Ukrainia.” (Too soon? Is Dorr on pace to be the Gilbert Gottfried of the free jazz world?)
The band’s best comes last, in the second set. (How often does that happen at Quinn’s, the first set paving the way for the second? Onset and rhyme. Set up and punch line.) There are fewer effects in “Flowers for Albert,” more traction, more grit, less grease. It’s a more conventional funk and it’s great. Ross accents. Hertenstein thumps a cowbell. “Flowers” is treated to a slow, gradual landing, getting better as it downshifts, the music mixing with clinking pint glasses and laughter.
“Out Cry” offers a different kind of contrast. Ishenko motors on. Hertenstein swings. They seemed headed for the conventional but Ross counters with an angular approach, launching shards of guitar Sonny Sharrock style. The dude next to me simply says, “Wow.”
The Welf Dorr Unit brings a similar game plan to the closer, “Blood.” Hertenstein places that menacing sword of Damocles of a cymbal on the end of a stick and spins it, twirls the damn thing. It sounds cool, but I’m relieved when he tosses it to the floor and the band clicks into another funk tune. Hertenstein and Ishenko outline. Ross provides the details and Dorr finishes with the text features—title, photos, captions, etc. Meanwhile the tree pulsates. It’s another night at Quinn’s.
Celeste Sonderland - All About Jazz
Welf Dorr: Flowers For Albert
In 1905 Albert Einstein published three monumental papers. His theory on Brownian motion showed that minute particles in liquid move randomly; the photoelectric effect said that light can exist as either a wave or a particle; and special relativity states that the speed of light is constant, regardless of the observer's velocity.
A hundred years later the United Nations declared 2005 the World Year of Physics and German-born alto saxophonist Welf Dorr played "Flowers For Albert", a play on the title of David Murray's 1976 Hatology tribute to Albert Ayler, at the German House in New York. That night Dorr's piece honored the great German physicist while perhaps subtly hinting at the other great Albert.
Bridging nations and styles with a group that included drummer Kenny Wollesen, Ethiopian bassist Henock Temesgen, Japanese pianist Shoko Nagai and trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, Dorr, who most regularly plays in New York with his trio and his hip-hop/jazz group Funk Monk, created a strikingly eloquent live album that variegates between periods of full jubilation and quiet discovery.
The group immediately dons a vibrant conviviality on the title track. Wollesen sets up a fresh, free atmosphere with a quick, breezy drum solo before Finlayson's steady trumpet line picks up the pace, prepping the space for Dorr to take charge on saxophone. Airy cymbals and piano add lightness to the long, deep sax tones, and soon all partake in the communal activities, conceding to each other in a space devoid of doubt. Soon the sound breaks down to elemental structures. Particles of plucking noise team with silent voracity. The piece builds again to catchy, horn-led melodies then echoes away with shards of trumpet and quivering drums.
Finlayson breaks out a swinging lyricism on "Outcry", held brightly aloft by the vivacious rhythm section. Fantastic solos spring up throughout the track. Nagai's spirited convolutions around the keys evolve into extreme counterpoint as her left hand takes on brooding chords that dissolve into a liquidy marsh of spooky bass notes, which in turn evaporate in the end into Wollesen's diligent drum solo. His progression follows the natural flow of motion created as the drums crash then fade, or beat after one another, barely leaving room between without treading on the next.
"Just 4 Us" features a scrupulous bass solo by Temesgen. He scurries around the neck of his instrument, teetering serendipitously upon key notes before idling away. Dorr plays flute on several tunes, adding a soft tone to the album with tracks like "Deep In". His compositions are rich in substance, introducing new textures into traditional constructs. The last track, "Swept Away", mixes free jazz with the big brassy sounds of a big band, incorporating a contrapuntal nature that mimics the combination of careful symmetry and natural chaos that is science.
Personnel: Welf Dorr: alto saxophone, flute; Kenny Wollesen: drums; Henock Temesgen: bass; Shoko Nagai: piano; Jonathan Finlayson: trumpet.
Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Self Produced | Style: Modern Jazz
Ken Waxman - New York City Jazz Record
Big Beat, Underground Horns
An unapologetic party band with brains, Underground Horns is a melting-pot aggregation only possible in a big city: its chief composer, reedist Welf Dorr, is a Munich transplant who participates in Butch Morris conductions; one of its trumpeters is Japanese-born Satoru Ohashi, who moved to New York from New Orleans while the rest are veterans of local jazz, Latin and reggae bands. The 10 selections pop with relentless rhythms and with four brass players, a saxophonist/clarinetist and three percussionists, tonal inflections from the Big Easy, central Africa, the Maghreb and the Baltic states make their way into the mix.
Tubaist Nate Rawls multi-rhythmically pumps out an ostinato underneath nearly every track, although any similarity to marching bands is scotched when the soloists appear. Dorr’s obviously-titled “Arabian Flavor”, for instance, features snake-charmer-like alto saxophone trills mixed with a stentorian brass crescendo, plus interjections from a disco whistle and resonating Berimbau-styled scratches. In contrast, trombonist Kevin Moehringer’s usual tailgate slurs are put aside on a tune like Dorr’s “La Luciernaga” for a solo that’s half-Willie Colón salsa and half-Rico Rodriquez ska. Eventually the vamping theme gives way to stop-time breaks involving the drummers.
If there are drawbacks to this game plan, it’s that the constant beat is omnipresent during every tune’s exposition, turn around and finale, no matter how many half-valve trumpet solos or altissimo reed trills break it up. Perhaps the band realizes this. Although brassier and more percussive than usually played, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and Dorr’s “Tranquility” are taken midtempo and moderato. The latter is defined by bass clarinet growls, smears and reed bites while the former melds tuba burbles, hand-slapped drumming and one trumpeter’s descriptive grace notes.
Big Beat isn’t the sort of CD to be intently listened to in one sitting. But heard a few pieces at a time, or used as a festive soundtrack, it’s sure to impress.
Elliot Simon - New York City Jazz Record
Almost Blue, Underground Horns
Literally NYC’s Underground Horns, these musicians began as subway performers. A potent horn section led by Welf Dorr’s alto saxophone includes Patriq Moody’s cornet, Kevin Moehringer’s trombone and Andrew McGovern’s trumpet. Drummer Kevin Raczka, djembe player Okai and tuba player Chanell Crichlow remind how exciting and integral a live rhythm section can be; they are up in the mix with a crisscross rhythmic sound, which interacts with the frontline, providing all the broad organic support that these horns need.
Almost Blue’s AfroBalkan-Creole musical core also incorporates Latin and funk with a healthy appreciation of Monk, Mingus and Miles. A revved-up “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” leads off over a pulsating African rhythm while the band also injects trumpeter Don Cherry’s “Mopti” with additional exotic cultural influences, serving as an apt closer. In between the band goes on a sonic world tour that begins with “Ethio”, a catchy melody whose hypnotic beat serves as a platform for individual soloing and Moehringer’s funky trombone.
New Orleans is visited during “Mardi Gras” with a superb Second Line soundtrack followed by “Creole”, a trip to Haiti written and sung by Okai in local Haitian patois. AfroLatin jazz is given its due with a sweet ensemble send-up of the great Ethiopian jazz musician Mulatu Astatke’s “Cha Cha”. Four originals from Dorr round out this release and stretch its boundaries: “Full Moon” is an almost breezy piece of funk; “House Song” has the band straying into an organically repetitive take on techno; “Rag A Tone” cleverly works off of a dembow reggaeton beat; and the title cut is a surprisingly elegant statement with Dorr adding bass clarinet to the sonic palate. Almost Blue, while true to the band’s formula of brassy danceable music, stretches out stylistically with excellent results.