‘Double Trouble Live’ – Peter Ehwald

PeterEhwald

THERE’S an enticingly gritty, direct edginess to new album Double Trouble Live from German saxophonist Peter Ehwald.

A quartet by any other name, this ‘double double bass’ backbone of Robert Landfermann and Andreas Lang ensures a robust, hard-hitting edge to Ehwald’s original compositions (plus one arrangement), with drummer/percussionist Jonas Burgwinkel a particularly agile contributor to these nine tracks recorded at gigs in Düsseldorf, München and Potsdam in 2013/2014. Peter Ehwald is already known to UK ears as the melodic front lead to exciting quartet Paragon (with Jon Scott, Arthur Lea and Matthias Nowak) – but this line-up is different again, revelling in more raucous, edgy, free improvisation whilst also able to display contrasting openness and sensitivity.

Despite the potential of eight bass strings, the sound remains essentially that of a chordless trio (recalling the sound worlds of, say, Depart or Partikel). Nevertheless, there’s a spontaneity to the exploratory jazz semblance of this quartet – formed in 2010, with a 2013 studio album to their name – which suggests a promising live experience, the leader describing his intentions “to act out something wild and create beautiful sounds at the same time; warm, contrapuntal, free indeed and liberated, yet still thoroughly composed.”

Peter Ehwald is a particularly searching saxophonist, and very much upfront in these performances. Lurching, sinewy, arco basses support his relentless tenor tumblings and screeches in opener In the Zone; and Mimouna‘s soprano extemporisations (on a traditional tune) portray the quartet quite differently with shades of Jan Garbarek or Julian Arguëlles, plus ear-catching, percussive bubbling from Ehwald’s personnel. As live takes, there’s an engaging honesty to these recordings, Mr Soju (at almost nine minutes) hitting the walls and rebounding to the quick-fire staccato of Burgwinkel’s hard kit and Ehwald’s unyielding, gruff and often duo-toned perambulations.

Dreamband is especially colourful, Ehwald’s showy tenor deftly combining with impulsive, buoyant bass and sparky percussion. Disquieting Branded brings the impressive bass voices to the fore, with Ehwald’s soprano suggesting a Shorteresque kind of discovery; title track Double Trouble resounds to Ehwald’s unexpectedly Getzian tones and the eastern resonances of Landfermann and Lang; and Borden‘s audacity – Ehwald clearly on great tenor form – is elevated still higher by Jonas Burgwinkel’s firecracker drums and percussion.

Arguably, as a recorded-live account, this amalgamation of sets requires close attention to understand its detail (certainly not mainstream or background listening). But once ‘in’, there’s a depth of invention here which, to ears attuned to saxophone-led chordless ensembles, can become absorbing.

Released on 30 October 2015, with its launch at London Jazz Festival on 18 November, Double Trouble Live is available from Peter Ehwald’s website, and also at online store MDT.

 

Peter Ehwald tenor and soprano saxophones
Robert Landfermann double bass
Andreas Lang double bass
Jonas Burgwinkel drums

peter-ehwald.net

Jazzwerkstatt – JW164 (2015)

‘China Lane’ – Alice Zawadzki

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FROM THE DELICATE opening riff of this debut release, singer, songwriter, violinist and pianist Alice Zawadzki has me enraptured. A number of years in gestation, China Lane offers a unique and pleasantly beguiling approach to jazz, folk (call it what you will) which is enduringly irresistible.

Comprised mostly of originals, this collection can be curious, unpredictable and maybe even eccentric – but it is this bold individuality which sets it apart. And, with the immense musicality of friends such as Kit Downes (Hammond), Alex Roth (guitar), Jon Scott (drums) and Andreas Lang (bass) on board, as well as strings and associate voices, this is a magical journey with a breadth that takes in stories of love, tenderness, desolation, discord and mischief. Zawadzki’s assured vocal delivery – heard also in Moss Freed’s excellent Moss Project (album review here) – is, for me, redolent of the invention of Annette Peacock and Björk, with a touch of the light, new-age folkiness of Sally Oldfield – yet it also possesses a rich and passionate depth which particularly comes to the fore in the two arrangements here of traditional Sephardic tunes.

The breathy, brushed, folksy opening number Ring of Fire, featuring Zawadzki’s clear lead vocal and mysterious violin melodies, is the perfect example of the twists and turns to be found in these entertaining fifty minutes. Kit Downes’ distinctive scratchy Hammond gradually nudges further into the proceedings against the sustained wash of Alex Roth’s guitar until, with rapid gear change, Andreas Lang’s double bass signals the glorious blues-jam conclusion, Downes and Roth underpinning Zawadzki’s playful scat-like vocal improvisations which, in the end, seemingly catch them out (to their audible amusement!). Cat is described by the composer as a modern fairytale in which “the ghost of a murdered feline finds its way into the body of a woman with excellent consequences”, the laboured push-pull rhythm provided by Jon Scott and sinewy effects from Downes and Roth – plus close, soulful harmonies – adding to the fantasy. Again, the mercurial nature of Zawadzki’s writing triumphs, Downes turning in a characteristically showy solo.

Indome Para Marsilia (arranged by Alex Roth) whirls and gyrates to its mesmeric folk melody, led by hard percussion and pulsating bass, giving Zawadzki the opportunity to reach vocal highs (Roth’s guitar a key element). Dicho Me Habían Dicho, the more introspective of these two traditional tunes, burns slowly and mystically, Shirley Smart’s typically gritty, wailing cello against Alex Roth’s harmonics enhancing Zawadzki’s brooding tones. The horizontal string-shimmering effect of Low Sun; Lovely Pink Light – with chromatically-climbing harmonies from Zawadzki, Emilia Mårtensson and Fini Bearman, plus Roth’s chorused guitar against Andreas Lang’s resonant bass – is heartstoppingly gorgeous, its rising, crescendoing impressions recalling a Danish winter sunrise. Emotional in other directions, nine-minute You As A Man reveals a tangible poignancy, Zawadzki’s lyricism perhaps at its height (“It’s like selling your feet to make money for shoes; using blood to wash your wounds”). The constant swell and diminuendo of Downes’ Hammond chords provide intrigue to this spiky and discomforting tale of obsessional love, and the whole band’s interpretation of Alice Zawadzki’s intentions match her dramatic vocal expression.

The urbanity of Manchester, including the buses which pass behind the stage of Matt & Phred’s jazz club, provide the subtle background ambience for the closing title track which reflects Zawadzki’s affection for and association with this northern city. Singing at the piano, accompanied by string sextet, she nostalgically paints images of the red sunset-tinged brick buildings of narrow China Lane in the album’s most commercially anthemic number.

As enchanting to experience ‘live’ as in this fine recording, Alice Zawadzki is most definitely one of contemporary’s jazz’s stars of the present and the future, possessing, as she does, remarkable musical dexterity and personality. A fine solo album debut.

Released on Whirlwind on 16 June 2014, further information and purchasing can be found here.

 

Alice Zawadzki voice, violin, piano
Alex Roth guitar
Andreas Lang double bass
Kit Downes Hammond organ
Jon Scott drums
Shirley Smart cello
Emilia Mårtensson voice
Fini Bearman voice
with
Eva Thorarinsdottir violin
Steve Proctor violin
Lucy Nolan viola
Tanah Stevens viola
Peggy Nolan cello
Rosie Toll cello

alicezmusic.com

Whirlwind Recordings – WR4647 (2014)