"code carnival"


- the compact orchestra -

combines the wealth of colours and the density of a large band with the intimate expressiveness of a chamber music ensemble.

"code carnival"

Imaginative and powerfully rhythmic Pata compositions carve spaces for expressive solos and launch an adventure in contemporary music.

A powerful ensemble in exciting time.

Norbert Stein
tenor saxophone, composition
Michael Heupel
Thomas Heberer
Frank Gratkowski
Matthias Muche
Christopher Dell
Achim Tang
Klaus Mages
drums, percussion


What has Norbert Stein, the saxophone player, dreamt up here?  A small big band or a big chamber ensemble?  Stein the individualist lays out precious stones for his players to cut and shape at will.  In doing so, they create a multi-faceted musical gem sparkling with the jazzy, classical and improvised elements of the European music tradition.  So complex is the cut that any attempt to give this Pata-diamond a setting would be in vain. 

Franz X. Zipperer, clarino.print


Artistically speaking, Norbert Stein has found a place in the sun: he is one of the  happy few in German jazz to have created a sonically distinctive concept of his own.  Whether or not the style called “Patamusic” hails from  Alfred Jary's  “Pataphysik” (as Stein himself will jokingly concede), or from any other school, is immaterial. The name attached to sound-driven art is always arbitrary, a useful analogy upon which musical logic cannot be built.

Tags such as "hymn-melody" or "narrative melody" may do greater justice to the essence of the form, but sound long-winded and are no match for the pithy "Patamusic". The same applies to the sound itself:  Patamusic, played by a trio, as here in an octet, or by a big band, is instantly recognizable, unshakeable in its identity and never hampered by format.

A few years ago, in a quartet line-up,  Norbert Stein brought the jazziest rendition of Patamusic to the provincial stage.  Its studio production remains eagerly awaited.  Which encourages me to go one further:  Patamusic is Norbert Stein and Nobert Stein is Patamusic, if only because its repertory is out of bounds to its exponents, who are called upon to interpret, and not to compose.    Patamusic stays the same,  what changes is presentation, or, more plainly speaking, the line-up.  "Liquid Bird", for example,  appears here for the fourth time since 1993, and still sounds different.  "Monks" is here for the second time, leaving us wondering about the absence of the much-loved "Atonal Citizen".

Norbert Stein Pata GeneratorsUnlike earlier productions, "Code Carnival" doesn't drop anchor in an ethno-musical port, be it in Morocco, Bahia, Java, or anywhere else, but disembarks, as it were,  onto Norbert Stein's very own home turf in the realm called jazz. This isn't about "jazz plus X",  too often revered to the point of dogma, but about the old set of rules which first inspired   – an enterprise which many a musician would fail to pull off.  Not so Norbert Stein,  who unearths the strengths of variegated, jazz-influenced rhythms, starting from swing through to heavy rock eights and then free metre (although bass and drums could knit a bit tighter).

One of the big assets of the production are the solo qualities of the extended line-up  – credit here goes to Thomas Heberer and Christopher Dell,  and no less to the band leader, who displays Ayleresque panache. 

"Code Carnival" starts and finishes with marches: the opening title track is a kind of jazz march, and "Just Brave in a Brain" the rock march finale – a punky 2-bar bass ostinato that carries the bass at 3:58 into triplet afro-feel, picking up the theme again later in binary beat.

Norbert Stein clearly relishes the rhythmic modulations.  The penultimate track, "Ballade von Zounds" is  yet another 2-bar ostinato with a counterpoint theme which dissolves the metre and then dips back into a ternary groove,  this time an uptempo swing,         

Norbert Stein dazzles us with the myriad possibilities of his system, and  its constituent parts work together excellently. Even with a more reductive recipe, we cannot imagine a result less sparkling.

Michael Ruesenberg / jazzcity-net-edition


German tenor saxophonist and bandleader Norbert Stein has been fronting his Pata Generators for many years. With a divergent discography and solid European following, he may loom as one of the best kept secrets in American jazz circles.

There’s nothing that intimates a hint of sheepishness about this octet’s in-your-face mode of operations. Estimable jazz musicians/improvisers, clarinetist Frank Gratkowski and bassist Achim Tang contribute mightily to this dense fabric of sound, where blaring horns and subliminal traces of Ornette Coleman come to fruition.

The soloists often partake in drawling unison lines, touched with linearly executed choruses and spiraling movement, where climbing a ladder in methodical fashion comes to mind. The band’s rough and tumble disposition is framed with layered flutes, colorific vibes, pathos and excitement. Stein’s fluid yet brawny tenor work commandeers the ensemble’s burgeoning rhythmic flow, spotted with catchy thematic opuses and sojourns, amid jaunts to the free-zone. Nonetheless, this octet boasts a massive yet expertly-arranged sound, counterbalanced with fluid and free-spirited improvisational structures. With these notions in mind, Stein also incorporates shades of Ellington into a frisky group-based methodology where anything is liable to occur. But the main component resides within the band’s singular musical identity. Again, it seems like an indignity of sorts, that his music is not widely-known here in North America.

Glenn Astarita, ejazznews

... from Cadence

While not a household name, Norbert Stein has been quite prolific. But just look at his band. When you’ve got guys like Heberer, Gratkowski, Dell, and Tang on board, you know things can get serious. Capable of heat, color, imagination, and drive, these are some powerful musicians. But what immediately strikes you about this music is Stein’s vast compositional range. These pieces are dense, at times sprawling in their ambition—they change meters frequently, requiring serious inventiveness and fluidity from Tang and Mages (who respond admirably). But they also shift idiom and mood just as often, recalling everyone from the Art Ensemble to Achim Kaufmann or John Hollenbeck’s complex large ensemble work to some hybrid of Franz Koglmann and Dave Douglas. Just to touch down on a few examples, the group takes in everything from brief tone poems (“Liquid Bird”; sweet chamber improv for the winds (“Monks,” where the leader finally gives himself room to shine during a vigorous groove section; hot funk vamping (“Raga,” with exhilarating collective soloing where Muche’s trombone mixes it up with Gratkowski’s clarinet and Dell’s vibes; and dense, Mingus-like polyphony (“Bersten in rot”). There are even some Threadgillian moments, as on the dizzy carnival atmosphere of “Sing a pure song.” Yet ultimately this is a music of shifts and interruptions, for just as you think you’ve pinned down a source or reference, a gap opens up or some long plangent pause stands out or the music takes a hard left or swan-dive. Somehow Stein is able to pull this off without the music losing its momentum or charm, and that’s quite an accomplishment.

Jason Bivins, ©Cadence Magazine 2006

“Pata-music” in a class of its own

The saxophone player, composer and veteran band leader has just released his 17th CD.  "Code Carnival" is the title under which the fifty-two year old recounts his experience of life in artistic form.  For this code, Stein avails himself of the full range of musical expression. His adaptation of his  "Pata Generators" octett productions of the last two years has the pace of a fast-moving film, a swift succession of sharp and colourful images evoking harmony, romanticism, and even contradiction ... 
Jazz music firecrackers.

Beate Schenk, Koelner Stadtanzeiger

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