Troy Dostert in Allaboutjazz, February 17, 2022
Listeners continually on the search for new instrumental configurations in jazz would be welladvised to check out the Broede Schirmer Unit. On the one hand, these four Berlin-based musicians
walk in well-trodden territory, with a commitment to working within both composed and free
musical forms; bassist Jan Roder and drummer Bernd Oezsevim have extensive experience in the
European free jazz circuit. But it’s the unique textures provided by the other half of the quartet that
give the music its distinctive character: namely, the superb clarinet/bass clarinet work of Tobias
Schirmer and, last but not least, the remarkable contributions of Matthias Broede, who doubles on
piano and harmonica throughout the recording. This lineup is quite effective in disrupting the settled
expectations one can bring to a session of free improvisation, pushing beyond cliches and opening
up some genuinely new possibilities for exploration.
With six cuts on the album, four composed by Broede, it seems fair to credit him with the dominant
vision behind the group’s aesthetic. It’s a capacious sound, with a great deal of freedom but with
improvisations that remain centered in a melodic logic. Sometimes it’s Schirmer’s winsome clarinet
that provides the tuneful fulcrum, as on the affecting opener, „Prominent Promenade on Planufer,“ a
lovely twelve-minute excursion that highlights the quartet’s capacity for close listening. Broede’s
graceful piano merges beautifully with Schirmer’s patient flights, with Roder and Oezsevim offering
just the right coloration; but that’s just the first half of the piece, before an animated solo from
Roder segues into Broede’s harmonica ostinato, which in unison with Schirmer now becomes the
basis for a compelling off-kilter groove and some simpatico mutual soloing from Broede and
Schirmer. And then the quartet makes room for yet another detour, with a swinging, post-bop motif
supporting an outstanding harmonica solo before the piece finally draws to a close.
„Sommerfrische Humboldt“ is another multifaceted track, beginning jauntily with a gentle stroll,
before a pensive rubato section that soon transitions into hard-driving swing and some thunderous
exclamations from Broede, then finally exiting via a return to the main theme. The group’s uncanny
ability to inhabit these divergent modes while retaining a fundamental integrity is proof of its wellhoned, cohesive sound.
The shorter cuts reveal other dimensions of the group’s approach. Broede brings a folkish charm to
his harmonica on „Two im Monbijou,“ a poignant duet with Schirmer, this time featured on bass
clarinet. The contrasting textures between the instruments are essential to its appeal, as is also the
case on „Please Cross at Kaisersteg!,“ another track tracing a potent melodic arc. „Viktoria Goes
Parking,“ by comparison, produces a vigorous punch, with a great deal of energy stemming from
the Broede/Schirmer axis, as these two are locked in tight, seemingly anticipating each other’s
moves without fail. And the closer, „West Ending,“ has more of the group’s Janus-faced approach,
with a freely-improvised first half transitioning seamlessly into a composed remainder offering yet
more surprises to finish the album. The Broede Schirmer Unit offers an abundance of strong music,
but one senses that these guys have a lot left to say.