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"Descriptions" Leo Records 2013



Jazz Word May 2014

„Descriptions“ ... captures the newest chapter of interactions between Schubert and Russian-American pianist Simon Nabatov. Working on-and-off together for years, often in bands with other participants, the two have also been playing as duo since the mid-1980s.“

„... acoustic piano and saxophone sequences ... sort themselves into 10 duos or descriptions on the Nabatov-Schubert session. Each track appears to have a precise function, demonstrating the outstanding improvisational excursions of each and/or appropriate ripostes to the other performer’s notions. Endlessly fascinating, Nabatov’s inside string plucking or keyboard caressing brings forth Schubert’s decision to confront staccato piano timbres with Aylerian harshness or mirror measured chording with Getzian smoothness. Broken tones radiate from each man’s playing whether melodious or stark timbres define the tracks. A tune such as “Obliqueness” can mutate from low-key inner-horn breaths plus piano soundboard slices and plucks, to a unique interface that excitedly matches shofar-like tones with hard-handed keyboard thumps. In contrast a piece such as “Accordance” ends the recital with tones so wispy they figuratively blow away after Nabatov’s sympathetic chording dissolves Schubert’s initial sharp tones.“
Centrepiece of the disc is the aptly titled “Expansion”. Almost 17 minutes of parries and thrusts from both sides, the piece evolves in spherical fashion with the narrative built out of glossy slurps and focused peeps from the saxophonist as Nabatov collects cadenzas that push the melody forward. Without warning the narrative splinters into a sequence of racehorse tremolos from both men, reaching a climax of sharpened atonality expressed in Schubert’s sheets of sound and sweeping cadenzas from the pianist. With the intensity explored, the two return to respectful lick trading as they do elsewhere in on the disc.“

„... experimental in its timbral examination, the Nabatov-Schubert duo keeps its equilibrium through the instrumental mastery of the two men.“

Ken Waxman

AllAboutJazz January 2014

Descriptions marks the initial alliance of venerable European improvisers, tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert and pianist Simon Nabatov. Recorded live at a venue in Cologne, Germany, the musicians plan their modalities on descriptive nouns, which is an interesting proposition that tenders food for thought on a per-track basis. They mold song forms based on ephemeral or lengthy interpretations of a descriptive word. Nonetheless, the program is a composite of penetrating and forward-looking dialogues complete with asymmetrical sensibilities framed on introspection, oscillating or rumbling movements and incongruent tonal swashes. They even mimic the sounds of nature in a few spots, while occasionally delving into microtonal terrain.

"Obliqueness" is a track that vividly declares slanted applications and an indirect schematic as Schubert's opening solo spot lasts two minutes, where he projects a bit of happenstance via off-key, theme-building permutations. Nabatov enters the scenario with opaque and maniacally devised lower-register block chords, as the duo eventually intersects to dish out a flurry of discordant sub-motifs. However, Schubert calms the waters then explodes into a sequence of circular riffs; hence, the piece ends with a faint sob. Here and throughout, the musicians re-imagine the perceived descriptions to employ as a forum for fertile improvisational workouts. Unlike some free form expositions, the artists root their output on implied meanings, executed via similes or perceptions, largely immersed in astute impressionism.

Glenn Astarita


Bad Alchemy December 2013

Der Kasseler Saxophonist MATTHIAS SCHUBERT und der aus Moskau stammende Pianist SIMON NABATOV lernten sich 1984 kennen, fern ihrer Heimat, in New York. In den 90er spielten sie in Manfred Bründls Basslab und in Schuberts Quartett zusammen, und neuerdings dann wieder in Nabatovs 'Roundup'-Projekt und im Trio mit Ernst Reijseger. Ihre Duette blieben jedoch bislang undokumentiert, so dass Descriptions (LR 686) da eine Lücke schließt. Eingefangen ist ihr launiges Miteinander am 14.5.2012 im Kölner LOFT, wo sonst. Zuerst fächern sie in kurzen Skizzen ihr Klangspektrum auf. Um dann bei 'enrich­ment' erst geräuschverliebt mit nahezu tonlosem Hauch und Innenklaviereffekten und dann mit gedämpfter Poesie tiefer in medias res zu gehen. Nabatov leitet mit kristallin schimmernden Einzelnoten über in das ausgedehnte 'expansion', mit silbern quirliger Tonleiterakrobatik und Luftschlangen des Tenors. Aber doch auch mit Niedrigwasser, bei der Nabatov mit der Linken Grundberührung hat, während die Rechte schon ganz auf dem Trockenen liegt, und Schubert aus 'tonlosen' Untiefen nur allmählich wieder in Fahrt kommt. Dann aber gleich in große, mit strudelndem Kielwasser. 'Obliqueness' trägt introspektive Züge, die Nabatov mit elegischen Noten unterstreicht, um plötzlich wild um sich zu schlagen. Doch der rebellische Gestus versinkt wieder nachdenklich, aber mit unverzagt schweifendem Tenor. 'Inhibition' wird lange von bruitistischem Geschlürfe, Geschrille und Gezülle und einfallsreichem Klimbim bestimmt, und Schubert 'seufzt-singt' sogar urmelig ums Mundstück rum, wobei ihn Nabatovs Linke dunkel betupft. Umso lauthalser hummelt, umso spritziger perlt danach 'brashness', bevor 'accordance' ein letztes Mal den Klangraum auslotet - mit Saxophonecholot und Phantomdröhnwellen, denen sich Schubert angleicht, während Nabatov feine Töne perlt und im Klavierinnern dongt. Ganz sublim.  [BA 80 rbd]

Rigobert Dittmann


JazzViewsCdReviews March 2014

The ten tracks of this album are given seemingly obscure names, DiscretionBrashness, for example, but are indicators of an approach to creating a structure in which each title is fashioned around the sense of the word. Their vividly creative, musical imaginations see them envisioning the implications of their efforts, revisiting them and using their new perceptions to extend their descriptions. There is mutual association and understanding between the two musicians which generates a strange calligraphy that discloses a familial resemblance between the aural interpretations and the words as

Both musicians, aged 54/55, have large experience behind them, Nabatov's more particularly recognisable, perhaps because of his time and contacts at the Juilliard School.  His family had moved from his birthplace, Moscow, to the US. He has worked with a broad range of musicians; George Adams, Chet Baker, Mark Feldman, Sonny Fortune and Kenny Wheeler feature among them.

Skilled and proficient improvisers, the duo parade interminable vigour in the stream of musical dialogues they generate. Whichever instrument may start a piece or section, it may surrender its role to its alter ego, whose approach may be diatribe or acquiescence.

The album is effervescent, the music continually deepening, developing and diverse, evolving, strengthening and renovating.  It is a journey of discovery.

Ken Cheetam


All About Jazz Italy March 2014

Si conoscevano e frequentavano da quasi trent'anni ma, sino a oggi, nonostante i tanti concerti, non avevano mai avuto la possibilità di incrociare i propri strumenti registrando anche un disco insieme. Per fortuna loro e nostra il signor "risolvo i problemi" Leo Feigin, strabiliante mente operativa e produttiva di una buona metà della musica di ricerca del pianeta da mezzo secolo a questa parte, ci metta la pezza e pubblica questo Descriptions che traduce in pensiero digitale la particolare energia e la forza espressiva di Simon Nabatov e Matthias Schubert.

Registrato al Loft di Colonia, vero tempio della musica dal vivo dedicata all'improvvisazione e alla "presentazione delle nuove idee sonore," il disco è davvero "descrittivo" nella più ampia accezione del termine.

Discordanti e frastagliate, le dieci composizioni del lavoro riempiono un'ora abbondante di musica sensibile e attenta al recupero delle ben conosciute capacità del pianista moscovita e del sassofonista di Kassel. Anarchia e geometria, umore e rumore, ordine calcolato e confusione disarticolata sono da sempre la cifra di entrambi i protagonisti di quest'avventura in grado di sviscerare in completezza formale il tema dato al disco attraversando schemi formali ed esondando anche nei territori del micro-tonale.

Un disco vivido, serio, impressionista, difficile. Colpiscono le costruzioni del tema, i motivi discordanti, le sequenze circolari ad esempio di brani quali "Obliqueness" (una perfetta esemplicazione omen nomen messa in scaletta dopo una torrenziale "Expansion" che forse rappresenta il summit del disco) o, ancora, i riff capaci di generare sterminate praterie improvvisative. La "descrizione" essenziale parla proprio del come esemplificare molte scelte di metodologia improvvisativa. In breve, è come se il duo cercasse di tradurre in immagine il percorso psicologico che sta alla base del loro concepire libere improvvisazioni utilizzando precise tecniche compositive di chiara scuola europea.

Introspezione ed eccellenza di due veri maestri. Alla fine un disco che non avrebbe senso "classificare" ma che, almeno il sottoscritto, prenderebbe volentieri ad esempio per la didattica moderna.

Vic Albani


Percorsi Musicali Italy January 2014

Se l'obiettivo della musica è quello di fornire anche un'aspetto visivo o rappresentare un sentimento, allora niente di meglio che cercare di renderlo esplicito attraverso procedimenti descrittivi tali da potersi insinuare nella psicologia dell'ascoltatore. Il duo tra il pianista russo Simon Nabatov e il sassofonista tedesco Matthias Schubert ha molto da corrispondere a questo principio: i due, singolarmente, sono da considerarsi allo stato attuale, due dei più profondi esploratori dei loro strumenti in chiave improvvisativa: Schubert ha condotto studi comparativi allo scopo di coniugare l'improvvisazione libera con le tecniche compositive di Lachenmann, per contro Nabatov ha cercato di approfondire i legami dell'improvvisazione libera (con tutti i suoi crismi) con la capacità immaginativa della letteratura scritta.
"Descriptions" è sintomatico fin dal titolo, ovvero pura e semplice descrizione, attraverso la musica, di stadi evolutivi della nostra vita riferiti all'azione (si va da quelli più semplici come l'insistenza o la delusione, a quelli più complessi come l'arricchimento o l'espansione). I due, come al solito, dimostrano la loro bravura facendo largo uso di tecniche non convenzionali, anzi quest'ultime determinano il risultato: composizioni come "Insistence", "Obliqueness" o "Discretion" (in cui Schubert pare completamente soffocato) rendono magnificamente l'idea, mentre quel percorso pare più difficile nei sedici minuti di "Expansion" o in brani come "Enrichment" o Delusion", dove la magnifica introspezione creata dai due musicisti ha caratteri molto più soggettivi; probabilmente in alcuni dei sentimenti proposti qualcuno si troverà spiazzato nel dover attribuire la giusta corrispondenza musicale, ma se togliessimo i titoli dei componimenti forse saremmo in altra situazione descrittiva!. 
Resta, comunque, fondamentale il fatto oggettivo di poter ascoltare un'ora di esposizioni musicali eccellenti che hanno quella patina riconosciuta di autenticità che risponde all'arte vera. 


Ettore Garzia


Monsieur Delire January 2014

Premier disque en duo de Matthias Schubert (saxo ténor) et Simon Nabatov (piano), mais ils se fréquentent depuis 30 ans. Enregistré au LOFT à Cologne en mai 2012, ce set touche à toutes les cordes de ces deux musiciens: énergie, tendresse, jazz, improvisation non idiomatique. Les pièces plus courtes sont les plus réussies, et la finale “Accordance” nous ramène délicatement sur terre.

This is the first duo album between Matthias Schubert (tenor sax) and Simon Nabatov (piano), but they have known each other for 30 years. Recorded at the LOFT in Cologne in May 2012, this set covers pretty much the whole range of both musicians: energy, delicateness, jazzy tendencies, non idiomatic improvisation. The shorter tracks are the best ones, and the finale “Accordance” gently brings us back to earth.



CultureJazz France 2014

Un autre duo réunit deux maîtres de l’improvisation, le pianiste Simon Nabatov (Leo Records Panorama 1) qu’on ne présente plus, et le saxophoniste allemand Matthias Schubert. Alors qu’ils ont commencé à jouer ensemble il y a près de 30 ans, ils enregistrent en duo pour la première fois. Les dix Descriptions improvisées permettent d’apprécier le discours sinueux du saxo-ténor et le piano enveloppant, orchestral, de Nabatov. Leurs jeux réciproques, contrôlés, voire opposés mais parfaitement complémentaires vont à l’aventure avec une rare maîtrise.


London Jazz News 2014

German saxophonist Matthias Schubert met the Russian pianist Simon Nabatov in New York in 1984, when they were in their mid-20s. They worked together in various groups over the years, but Descriptions – recorded live at Loft in Cologne in May 2012 – is their first duet release. The concert bears the hallmarks of a pair who know each other well (Nabatov has been based in Cologne since 1989), and Nick Duvidowski’s liner essay astutely observes that Schubert and Nabatov avoid “the clichés of improvised music, that of tending to behave like a flock of birds, always flying and turning together”. And so it is that some of the session comes across as more of a kerfuffle than a conversation, making a variously fascinating and challenging experience. The ten improvisations vary in length from less than two minutes to almost 17. Schubert displays a wide spectrum of expression: gruffness on Insistence, kissing and spluttering during Inhibition, and “normal” tone production on Obliqueness. The piano’s capability for variety may be more restricted, but Nabatov creates koto-like passages, odd muffled effects, creaking and knocking as he manipulates the strings, keyboard and woodwork. Enhancement begins with a rising arpeggio by Nabatov that is reflected in a falling figure from Schubert. A harnessed vamp is interrupted by an interlude that sets a repetitive saxophone riff against hard hitting, Don Pullen-like piano, before it dissolves towards conciliation. During Enrichment, the tenor is hissy and urgently slap-tongued, while the piano is muted and its strings are carefully plucked and strummed. There are tinkling chords, moments of stasis, and a few odd noises that seem as if they couldn’t possibly have been produced by the tools at hand. The longest track, Expansion, is relatively straightforward at first - and almost pretty at times - although it remains jolly difficult to see exactly how the players are relating to each other. The clicking of the saxophone’s levers is pitted against the rumbling piano; then there’s a section in which “avant garde fours” are exchanged as Schubert alternates conventional and whooshing sounds between Nabatov’s phrases. The sax fixes on lengthy notes that become unsteady and turbulent as the piano tumbles underneath, and together they build to a loud and violent climax. Common ground is eventually found, and calm prevails at the conclusion. It’s unlikely to impress your girlfriend’s parents when they come over for dinner, but this is demanding, thought-provoking stuff from two leading exponents of European free jazz.


Andy Boeckstaens


Improjazzmag France May 2014

Le ténor de l’un pourrait-il être plus rauque,  plus éraillé? Le piano du deuxième pourrait-il être plus sensible, plus médiateur?  Matthias Schubert et Simon Nabatov enregistrent en duo pour la première fois et leur complicité semble durer depuis des siècles. Leurs courtes improvisations étonnent : une figure est énoncée, rarement cultivée. On entre dans le vif du sujet et on l’abandonne rapidement. Il y a frustration mais il y a aussi présence et impact. Leurs plus longues improvisations ravissent : on navigue entre microtonalité et essences salivaires. Le sax est guilleret, ludique. Le piano fait acte de tendresse et de violence. On se déleste et on s’abandonne. On passe du bourdon au cri. On engage un motif, on le répète et on le décline en plusieurs tonalités-couleurs. On imite on ne sait quel volatile et on lui invente un nouveau charivari. On bouscule le contrepoint et l’entretoise. Et puisque l’on aime étonner, on se quitte en notes lentes et anxieuses.  Et on se dit alors que le meilleur est avenir.


Luc Bouquet