‘The Port of Life’ – Jean John

SLOVENIA to NEW YORK… a personal narrative of immigration and acculturation. Drummer, composer and bandleader Jean John’s ambitious work The Port of Life – dedicated to all the immigrants of this world – fulfils his belief that music should always tell a story and create an experience.

Born Žan Tetičkovič, in Ptuj in Slovenia, Jean John relocated to the United States in 2010 to further his artistic ambitions, and desired to communicate the “whirl of emotions in trying to find and establish the existence in a new culture”.

Read the full review at LondonJazz News…

 

Jean John (Žan Tetičkovič) drums and cymbals, composition
Alba Nacinovich vocals
Lenart Krečič tenor saxophone
Tomaž Gajšt trumpet and flugelhorn
Jani Moder guitar
Marko Črnčec (Churnchetz) piano
Myles Sloniker upright bass

Janus Atelier String Quartet:
Matija Krečič 1st violin
Nejc Avbelj 2nd violin
Barbara Grahor viola
Zoran Bičanin violoncello

Andrej Lamut photography
Marko Damiš design
Sergej Harlamov poetry

Žiga Murko electronics

jean-john.com

ZKP RTV Ljubljana – RTVS 114441 (2016)

‘Pasar Klewer’ – Dwiki Dharmawan (2CD)

dwikidharmawan

THE SCALE AND DYNAMISM of double album Pasar Klewer, from Indonesian pianist Dwiki Dharmawan, is pretty awe-inspiring. 

Reflecting the hustle and bustle of its South-East Asian marketplace title (and reinforced by a lively cover illustration), this ambitious, one-hundred-minute fusion of jazz, rock and world music has at its core a vibrant trio, with Dharmawan joined by the brilliance of bassist Yaron Stavi and drummer/percussionist Asaf Sirkis. But the beautiful eclecticism of contributions made by the pianist’s guest musicians – including clarinettist/saxophonist Gilad Atzmon and electric guitarist Mark Wingfield – elevates these eleven, expansive tracks into a cornucopia of often unexpected riches.

Described as a cultural icon in his homeland, performer, composer and arranger Dharmawan’s expertise in bringing together these various strands is impressive; and with a breathlessly flamboyant piano technique, he is clearly an inspirational leader. Title track Pasar Klewer brims with exotic colour, Mark Wingfield’s characteristic, high-velocity guitar the ideal partner for the busyness of Dharmawan, Stavi and Sirkis; yet it is also imbued with the magical sound-imagery of chants, bells and Aris Daryono’s three-stringed rebab. Glad Atzmon’s clarinet deftness (always with such a distinctly ‘vocal’ expression) soars in Spirit of Peace, a relentless, smouldering dance suffused with Nicolas Meier’s glissentar improvisations and Asaf Sirkis’ konakol voicings.

It’s an adventure of mystery and discovery, with the sense of pulling back the curtain to reveal the next chapter – so Atzmon’s superb soprano sax outpourings over vigorous gamelan orchestra and free-jazz piano trio are just a small part of the story of thirteen-minute Tjampuhan; melodically uplifting Frog Dance (with a field recording of the Balinese variety) is irresistible; and Asaf Sirkis’ own Life It Self enjoys a hard-driven prog groove perpetuated by the heavier aspect of his drumming and the stratospheric, pitch-bent guitar of Mark Wingfield.

Robert Wyatt’s Forest and the trio’s composition London in June include the theatrical vocals of Boris Savoldelli; and Dharmawan’s arrangement of traditional tune Lir Ilir is introduced by the decorative voice of Peni Candra Rini before it cranks up into full-throttle piano jazz embellished by glissentar. Amidst such intensity, moments of repose can be found in elegant Bubuyu Bulan and Purnama, whilst the expanded, instrumental version of Forest which closes the programme – featuring both Dharmawan and Wingfield, effectively enhanced by electronic shooting stars – possesses a transcendental magic.

Bask in its cosmopolitan outlook and astounding musicianship.

Further details and audio samples at MoonJune Records.

 

Dwiki Dharmawan acoustic piano
Yaron Stavi upright bass, electric bass
Asaf Sirkis drums, udu clay percussion, shaker, konakol singing
with
Mark Wingfield guitar
Nicolas Meier glissentar, acoustic guitar
Gilad Atzmon clarinet, soprano sax
Boris Savoldelli vocals
Ari Daryono vocals, gamelan percussion, kendang percussion, rebab
Peni Candra Rini vocals
Gamelan Jess Jegog led by I Nyoman Windha gamelan orchestra

dwikidharmawan.net

MoonJune Records – MJR081 (2016)

‘Weltentraum Live’ – Michael Wollny Trio

WeltentraumLive

SEVERAL MONTHS AGO, German pianist Michael Wollny released outstanding jazz piano trio album Weltentraum (Dream World), taking ‘lied’ as its theme. With a new line-up – Tim Lefebvre (bass) and Eric Schaefer (drums) – the studio recording was met with critical acclaim across the international music media for its intelligent, inventive sequence of song-based interpretations, as well as its excitingly fresh, flawless delivery (AP Review here).

Wollny has been on the scene with Siggi Loch’s ACT Music label for some ten years now, garnering countless awards for his burgeoning catalogue of recordings, not least (with Weltentraum) four stars in US magazine Downbeat and a place in the Top 50 pop album charts. In March, during the trio’s 2014 Jazznights tour, Loch decided to record their gig in the Chamber Music Hall of Philharmonie Berlin; and, citing Wollny as the “creative pillar of the ACT family” who inspired him to carry on after the tragic, untimely death of Esbjörn Svensson, the performances here exude, at times, a similar spine-tingling energy and spontaneity to that of e.s.t.’s inspired double Live in Hamburg release of 2007 (ACT 6002-2).

Featuring extended development of six tracks from the studio album – along with two scintillating new works by drummer Schaefer – the whole fifty-five minute Weltentraum Live experience is excellently captured and clearly appreciated by an enthusiastic audience.

Here, the nocturnal mystery of Alban Berg’s Nacht is afforded more space for improvisatory elaboration; and Hindemith’s Rufe in der Horchenden Nacht comes alive with an enhanced, glowing timbre, Lefebvre’s fluent, rasping bass matching Wollny’s range of skittering high lines and impressionistic iridescence. Phlegma Phighter (Schaefer’s vigorous, bustling eleven minutes’ worth) is a fantastic, contrasting showcase for the trio – one minute, thunderously heavy; the next, displaying a ‘deafening tranquillity’ before blazing red hot at the invitation of the writer’s snare fanfare. These ingenious twists and turns might invite comparisons with, say, The Bad Plus or Phronesis – but Wollny is his own man, whose distinctive pianistic character very much shapes this trio; his own pop-infused When the Sleeper Wakes shines all the brighter thanks to the crackling impetus of bass and drums, which Wollny clearly responds to.

Eric Schaefer’s beautiful, contemporary reworking of Guillaume de Machaut’s 14th Century Lasse! holds the breath with Gustavsen-like reverence (no doubt the Philharmonie gathering were similarly spellbound); and Wollny’s dark-edged Engel grooves to the gruff, distorted bass of Lefebvre, leading directly to Gorilla Biscuits (now, there’s a title!), an absolute masterpiece which pushes each player to the limits, carefully synchronised but also clanging with extreme and quite physical extemporisation (triggering huge applause). To close, the trio’s delectable, almost levitational reading of Jon Brion’s charming song, Little People – quietly irresistible, and all the more wondrous in this live setting.

Released in the UK on 13 October 2014, the heights that the Michael Wollny Trio are currently scaling might pose a dilemma in choosing which of these two recent releases to own – studio or live? For the sheer magic of it all, I offer a single recommendation – BOTH!

Weltentraum
Weltentraum Live

 

Michael Wollny piano
Tim Lefebvre upright bass
Eric Schaefer drums

ACT Music – 8579-2 (2014)

‘Weltentraum’ – Michael Wollny Trio

WeltentraumII

THE ART OF the jazz piano trio has undergone something of a renaissance over the past couple of decades, advancing so much more on the traditional expectation of Real Book pianist supported by drums and bass rhythm section. One only needs to look at the trailblazing achievements of Django Bates, Kit Downes and Phronesis, the seminal work of Esbjörn Svensson and, more recently, the rising interest in newcomers GoGo Penguin to understand that the format is travelling in increasingly more creative, vibrant and exciting directions.

Enter Michael Wollny who, like his one-time ACT stablemates e.s.t., possesses the innate ability, and the vision, to take the concept of the piano trio to a distinctly higher level. The German pianist has been on the scene for a decade or so, gradually building an impressive catalogue of recordings and collaborations. With this latest release, however, and a new trio – Time Lefebvre (bass) and Eric Schaefer (drums) – he appears to have catapulted his ambitions into the stratosphere with a recording of exceptional dynamism, divergence and beauty. ‘Weltentraum’ (or ‘Dream World’) has been approached from the point of view of songs or ‘lied’, with Wollny finding inspiration in music which is equal in strength of both melody and words/poetry – and, in doing so, has crafted an album of instrumentals (save for the final track) which, citing his own wish-list, encompasses “tonality and atonality, fragility and force, melodic purity, romantic totalism, endless melodies, dark abysses, angels, dream logic, light and darkness, and gothic beauty.”

The provenance of the fourteen numbers could hardly be more ingeniously varied and considered, Wollny and Schaefer producing remarkable acoustic trio arrangements of numbers from The Flaming Lips and Pink to Paul Hindemith, Wolfgang Rihm, Alban Berg and Guillaume de Machaut, as well as a couple of originals from the leader – yet the entire concept holds together so brilliantly. And, for all its inventiveness and interest, the music contained within these fifty-five-plus minutes, regardless of its origin, is consistently accessible and, I find, profoundly engaging.

For example, Eric Schaefer takes a 14th Century motet – de Machaut’s Lasse! – and transforms it into a gently shimmering, ebbing contemporary tune. With a deliciously bendy bass intro, Peter Ivers’ song, In Heaven (from movie Eraserhead), becomes a wide, flamboyant blues; and Be Free, A Way exchanges its psychedelic electronica for driving jazz/rock with a smattering of Gustavsen-like restraint. Rihm’s Hochrot (usually for soprano or tenor voice) maintains the original’s unsettled beauty, again Lefebvre’s bass integral to the whole pellucid reading; and whilst the words and music of Jon Brion’s Little People are already too beautiful, the song transcribes magically for jazz piano trio. Amongst all this are Michael Wollny’s own compositions –  Engel, a dark, smouldering affair; and When the sleeper wakes, whose pop-song groove is illuminated by characteristically sputtering piano soloing.

And so the wonderful reinterpretations continue, the added spin-off being that they spark further personal discovery (Hindemith or The Flaming Lips might well be my next stop!) – and I positively recommend the whole ear-opening experience. The trio’s ensemble and individual performances are exceptional throughout, and the recording both bright and immediate.

Released on 10 February 2014, ‘Weltentraum’ is available from ACT Music, as well as iTunes and usual outlets; the trio begins a short UK tour on 29 April 2014 (see below).


Michael Wollny
piano (harpsichord on final track, God is a DJ)
Tim Lefebvre upright bass
Eric Schaefer drums
with special guest
Theo Bleckmann (vocals & electronics on final track, God is a DJ)


UK tour dates 2014

29 April: The Vortex, London (TBC)
30 April: Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple
1 May: Watermill Jazz at Friends Provident Social Club, Dorking
2 May: Sheffield Jazz, Sheffield
3 May: Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Cheltenham

ACT Music – ACT 9563-2 (2014)