home biography discography concert dates what they say...
contact photos & sounds


"Tender Mercies" Clean Feed Records 2023


February 2023

A wonderfully lyrical, yet full of amazing joy atmospheric duo of the two Masters, who know each other like bald horses, as we say in Polish. The set was recorded at LOFT in Cologne January 2022. What I like especially about this album is the fact that Frank jumps here between different instruments, not only in different songs, but also within a given song. For instance, on the opening "Turn of Events", he starts on alto and turns then to clarinet. "Tender Mercies" are exclusively for flute part, while the expressive "Safe Home" for bass clarinet. On "Cagey" Frank uses clarinet and bass clarinet. My favourite is the over 7 minutes long "Layers of Disguise" for alto saxophone. "Surfaces" is a short miniature in the Weberian style, played on clarinet. Finally, "Disgruntled Settlement", another explosion of expression played on bass clarinet and alto. Outstanding album!!!

Maciej Lewenstein


The New York City Jazz Record May 2017

Op ‘Tender Mercies’ horen we Nabatov gewoon weer op piano en Gratkowksi op altsax, fluit, klarinet en basklarinet. Te beginnen met die altsax in het bedachtzame en verstilde ‘Turn of Events’, een bijna romantisch stuk. Daar blijft het niet bij in dit ruim elf minuten durende stuk. Verderop horen we Gratkowski in die voor hem zo kenmerkende heftig sputterende stijl, alle registers open gooiend. Diezelfde patronen ontwaren we in het titelstuk ‘Tender Mercies’, maar dan op fluit. Het is muziek die zich beweegt tussen ingetogenheid, soms redelijk melodisch aan de ene kant en krachtig, explosief, enigszins chaotisch aandoend aan de andere kant. Het eerst krijgen we mooi mee in ‘Cagey’, waarin we Gratkowski horen op basklarinet, terwijl Nabatov hier vooral het lage register van de piano bespeeld, het tweede klinkt in ‘Safe Home’, waarin we Gratkowski wederom op altsax horen, extreem hoge noten uit zijn instrument persend. Bijzonder tot slot is Gratkowski’s enigmatische spel op de altsax in het afsluitende ‘Disgruntled settlement’, in prachtig duet met een ritmisch spelende Nabatov.

Ben Taffijn


Merlbank February 2023

We don't usually comment on cover art but make an exception here as the design and paintings, glance above, are beautiful. The music as you might guess given the visual clues is highly modernistic and avant-garde and just as appealing. We have been listening to music by veteran German reedist Frank Gratkowski for years and even more regularly by the equally prolific pianist Simon Nabatov. Recording as so often at the Loft venue in Cologne there is an intricacy in what Nabatov in a duo setting achieves. And while some passages can be wild and hugely exuberant there is a lot of thought in the compositional design of the album and you get a grandeur that you don't always obtain from free-jazz. When Gratkowski switches especially to flute or clarinet it's as if new possibilities arise and you get a serene sensitivity on 'Surfaces' for example. Stimulating overall, not for the faint hearted (there aren't any tunes you can whistle as you wend your way home) - however the deliberate mayhem of the final track is far less appealing. Whether you call Tender Mercies ''classical/contemporary'', ''improvised music/jazz'' or choose any other generic labelling to blithely fandango about, matters not one jot if you get the duo's essential drift.

Stephen Graham