SUMMER RE-UP #4: Everybody Loves Wolfgang Dauner

Originally posted 19 March 2007


Wolfgang Dauner
ECM : 1970

WD, piano, ring modulator, clavinet; Eberhard Weber, bass, cello, guitar; Fred Braceful, percussion, voice.

Wolfgang Dauner — not exactly a household name. So here are some fun facts about Mr. Dauner and his visionary 1970 electronic-jazz masterpiece Output.

#1: Hard to believe given its futuristic collision of aggressive electronic effects and heady jazz-rock instrumentation, but Output was one of the first releases of the fledgling ECM Records [1006].

#2: Manfred Eicher served as producer, although this clearly predates the refinement of his trademark production sound – that crystalline and sometimes airless quality that’s come to define the label. Perhaps, as some rumors allege, Eicher merely licensed this album from Dauner and added his credit after the fact. Or perhaps he played a key role in birthing in this forward-looking music. Anybody know for sure?

#3: Like many of the early 1000 series of ECM releases – many of the label’s most interesting recordings – Output is not readily available on CD.

#4: The album found little traction among jazz fans upon release. The electronic treatments were too strange, the compositions too off-kilter. There’s the pinched compression, the spacey melodica sounds in “Nothing to Declare” that seem lifted from a reggae song years down the road. Them there’s the Arabic tonalities in “Abraxas.” Not rock, not jazz, not even really fusion. The music was generally ignored.

#5: Dauner’s electronic-jazz combination even predates Dr. Patrick Gleeson‘s radical use of electronics on Herbie Hancock’s Sextant (1973). The work of both these visionary musicians was snubbed by most jazz cognoscenti.

#6: Dauner’s music was partially rediscovered and championed thanks to those outside the jazz community. The primary movers here were industrial pioneers Nurse With Wound. Dauner was included on the arcane but massively influential Nurse With Wound list, a grouping of sympatico artists that influenced the group’s early sound and approach. Many musicians on this list were virtually unknown at the time but their music has become quite influential. Only a few remain anonymous stars in that vast mysto-musical cosmology.

#7: Although the NWW list only includes artist names, Output is NWW mainstay Steve Stapleton‘s favorite Wolfgang Dauner album.

#8: Output is also a favorite of Jim O’Rourke‘s — varied solo artist, former Gatr Del Sol and Sonic Youth member, producer for Faust, Melt Banana, and Wilco, improviser with Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, and Red Krayola, experimental filmmaker, author of an incredibly informative essay about the Japanese New Wave cinema of the 1960s, et cetera.

#9: Though Abraxas, the Santana album, was released in September 1970, just as Output was being recorded, it is highly likely that Dauner was drawing on an entirely different tradition.

#10: Eberhard Weber: “I developed a kind of playing which only a handful of musicians accepted. I met an older German piano player named Wolfgang Dauner and he accepted my playing. We pretty quickly developed a German Bill Evans-style trio — similar to the one with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian, without playing that well of course. [laughs] This was very different to what the other people who played in Germany were doing.”

#11: Since the early 1980s, Weber has regularly collaborated with British siren Kate Bush, playing on four of her last five studio albums (The Dreaming, 1982; Hounds of Love, 1985; The Sensual World, 1989; Aerial, 2005).

#12: Dauner later went on to stage multi-media theatrical events as part of his music.

#13: Is it just us, or does that cover art look exactly like it should be gracing the album of a New Wave band circa 1983?

#14: Dauner is not above a pun.

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