"Fat sound from forceful
"...this evening is going to
"Elegant and highly relaxed"
CD-Tip Berliner Morgenpost
"The balance between sophisticated virtuosity and
atmospheric density convinced me a lot"
"Nostalgia, but of a harmonious and charming kind"
Press release of LAIKA-Records:
This is the heartbeat of Hardbop.
The Berlin-based jazz quintet, lead by the two tenor saxophonist Bernd Suchland and Patrick Braun, plays hardbop jazz
fresh and virtuosic, honest and direct.
Without top-heavy flourishes Suchland and Braun along with Dan-Robin Matthies (piano), Lars Gühlcke (double bass) and
Ralf Ruh (drums) goes to the point of jazz. They take it seriously, the music that was in the 50s and 60s part of everyday
life and prove sustainable energy a handmade, pure jazz feeling. Since fifteen years, The Toughest Tenors convince the
audience and the press with an expertly selected program of the timeless jazz history.
" The Toughest Tenors have it all: a catchy band name, talent, maturity, a clear attitude to music and now another great
album: "HIP TIP". Late 50s to early 60s high class albums have been produced, which hardly anyone knows himself in
musical circles. A cornucopia from which we pick out the best pieces and they awaken with fresh arrangements to life ,"
explains Suchland the approach of the band. This involves him and his saxophone partner Patrick Braun not in a musical
contest, but in juxtaposition with each other.
THE TOUGHEST TENORS:
Bernd Suchland tenor-saxophone Patrick Braun tenor-saxophone
Dan-Robin Matthies piano Lars Gühlcke bass Ralf Ruh drums
This Band is going to knock you out. Why? To find out you will have to last the full ten rounds of this CD. Don´t fret
through, “What´s happening”, the first punch pulled by the quintet “The Toughest
Tenors” won´t give you a black eye, it´s aimed straight at your ears. And that´s where
this work will register. It offers prominent, exceptional and rare arrangements from a
time before jazz was panting in its corner waiting for resuscitation by musical historians.
The most effective tool of the trade in these times was the tenor sax. Tales of the
exploits of the heroes of the age have become legion...
About a night in early 1934 for instance, when Coleman
Hawkins was tirelessly defending his title, way into the
small hours of the morning, against challengers Lester Young and Ben Webster. Or Dexter´s
1947 session with Wardell Gray that became known as “The Chase” after it was released on the
LP of the same name. Or last but definitely not least the countless duels between teammates
Johnny Griffin and Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis. These two battle-hardened players have just been
appointed to the position of unofficial strategic consultants for “What´s happening”.
Seven out of the ten pieces are based on arrangements that Griffin and Davis used for their
sessions in the early 60´s. Under the competent hands of Bernd Suchland and Max Hacker -
“The Toughest Tenors” from Berlin these charts become at times pleasurable callisthenics for
your facial muscles, at other times tricky
workouts for the brain. When the rough-and-
ready Suchland and the sophisticated Hacker pit their wits against each other,
it´s never about who can play higher or faster or louder. They support and
enhance each other, give each other a leg-up in the head of Monk´s
“Misterioso”, or in the intro to “Abundance”, deliver a well-oiled and -trained
relay race through the changes, and are a shining example of fair play in
today´s world of performance-enhanced music.
In the title track “What´s happening” we find the two tenors locked in
combat. Cheered on by their training partners, pianist Sebastiabn Wittstock -
always attacking from a secure position, bass player Marc Muellbauer - equipped with a boxers heartbeat, and referee Ralf
Ruh on drums, the two front men go all out.
The overused phrase “Tenor Battle” seems out of place in this context. It´s not about combat (Folks who are into combat
should join the foreign legion!).
If there is a showdown to this recording, it features our two heroes riding peacefully into the sunset in the final vamp of
“How am I to know” There are no winners or losers, because there never was a fight. It´s only the listener who finds
himself happily knocked out, waiting for the count.
text: Josef Engels
The musicians of this CD:
Bernd Suchland tenorsax
Max Hacker tenorsax
Sebastian Wittstock piano
Marc Muellbauer bass
Ralf Ruh drums
“This Berlin-based Quintett transports you back to the times of
smoke-filled clubs where hard bop was still dance music, and the
coolest of the cool wore skinny ties and swung glittering saxophones.”
“With its first-class sound and edgy arrangements, this Jazz Quintet
from Berlin stakes a claim to the classic tunes of a legendary jazz era.”
„I know I'm not from this planet; I can't be. I must be from someplace else in the
universe because I'm a total misfit.“
Secret Dossier: “American Jazz”
The Toughest Tenors are about to drop their third Album, “Well-Kept Secrets.” The five undercover agents from Berlin (Bernd
Suchland - Tenor Sax; Patrick Braun - Tenor Sax; Dan-Robin Matthies - Piano; Lars Gühlke - Bass; and Ralf Ruh – Drums)
once again divulge some of the arcane musical knowledge they’ve managed to smuggle out of the Land of Opportunity
(where Jazz developed as a unique cultural treasure).
The Toughest Tenors, who have been in action for two decades now, operate covertly in the last few remaining Jazz Cellars
in this world, where they live out their own personal American Dream. They’re an insider’s tip; they exist outside the
spectrum of social media, cultural sponsorship, and European jazz
fashion. They use their sensitive antennae to receive and decode
original Jazz data that had long been given up for lost and they
revive and represent it in the face of modern Crossover. They’re
cool, they’re incorruptible, and they know their business. They plug
into a time where Jazz still had an earthy style, swung hard, was
packed with blues and soul, and reached a public that turned up the
radio, swung along, and couldn’t stay in its seats. The pair of tenor
personalities Suchland and Braun, though unified in their mission,
manage to find completely distinct paths in sound and phrasing:
two independent intelligent operatives who complement and inspire
With flair that rivals Fleming’s creations, they’ve put together a CD
with 10 selected top secrets. Their bugging operation into almost
completely unknown rarities by the likes of Gene Ammons, Johnny Griffin, or Melba Liston has put a bug into music critics
and NSA alike, and passed the spirit of this music onward to reach an audience that’s still amazed – after over 350 concerts
– to find that it can’t be heard anywhere else anymore.
The Toughest Tenors broke the code long ago. And they continue to rewrite it. With this CD, they’re sending their message
over the air, into the ether, perhaps out into space, past stars to faraway planets where Jazz just might be more at home
than it is here on Earth. Maybe there’s a reunion with their heroes, the Jazz Greats of Old, waiting for them out there