Michael Wollny Trio Live at Kaserne Basel – May 7, 2016 – A Review

Michael Wollny

I already wrote Wollny twice. Most recently about his most recent release, Nachtfahrten, which I really liked, and I have one of his live albums in my list of the 25 Essential Jazz Albums.

He is probably one of the most creative jazz pianists out there these days. Unfortunately, in spite of being extremely popular in his home country, he’s still not as well known in the rest of the world. I really hope this will change.

A Jazz Piano Trio Concert Weekend

I hadn’t really planned on being in Switzerland this weekend, but in the end, concert-wise, it turned out rather a great place to be. I had the extreme pleasure of seeing Michael Wollny’s Trio Live yesterday in Basel, and will be seeing GoGo Penguin live tonight in Zurich (see my review of their latest album here).

Michael Wollny Trio Live At Jazz Festival Basel, July 7, 2016 – Nachtfahrten

I must admit, I initially had some hesitations about a live concert of his most recent album Nachtfahrten. Although I liked it a lot, it is an overall rather quiet, nocturnal album, and I wasn’t sure if this is music that would be well adapted to a live concert.

I shouldn’t have worried. While he played several songs of Nachtfahrten, only the title track, which he played as a great encore, was as slow and meditative as the album.

During pretty much the entire rest of the concert, the trio was truly on fire. Wollny was in great shape, you could really see how physical this was for him (I was lucky to be all the way up front in third row, so had an excellent view). This is a musician that truly lives his music.

Michael Wollny Trio Christian Weber Eric Schaefer Live At Kaserne Basel July 07 2016

A special compliment needs to go to Eric Schäfer on drums. He put so much energy into his solos, that at some point a piece of his drum kit got catapulted into the audience. And the way he kept the groove really was essential to the spellbinding atmosphere of this concert.

Michael Wollny Trio Christian Weber Eric Schaefer Live At Kaserne Basel July 07 2016

Christian Weber, the local Swiss addition to the trio, was in great shape as well. The interplay between him and Wollny was just outstanding.

Michael Wollny Trio Christian Weber Eric Schaefer Live At Kaserne Basel July 07 2016

The trio also played several songs from the previous album, Weltentraum. Actually, the concert was special in a way that the trio didn’t only play individual songs, but actually one song merged into an improvisation seamlessly blending over into the next song. The audience barely got any occasion to clap (so when they did, the applause was over enthusiastic).

Michael Wollny Trio Christian Weber Eric Schaefer Live At Kaserne Basel July 07 2016

If you ever get the possibility to see these amazing artists live, don’t miss it. His Weltentraum Live Album gives you a good idea what to expect.

Luckily, this concert got recorded by Swiss radio (to be played somewhere in summer), so I hopefully will be able to relive this great experience again. And maybe this even makes it into an album. Fingers crossed.

 

Eeriness or How To Summarize Michael Wollny’s New Release in One Word

Michael Wollny

I’ve already praised his latest live album in my 25 essential Jazz albums. Michael Wollny, 37, is certainly one of the greatest talents in Jazz Germany has to offer these days.

So I was very glad when I was pointed to his latest album he just released, Nachtfahrten (literally, night rides or night drives).

Really, you’re going to say, my last post was about Chopin’s Nocturnes, and here comes another one about music of (or for) the night? Well, this wasn’t on purpose.

Nachtfahrten

In any case, when you listen to this album, think much more Debussy’s nocturnes, or Scriabin, than Chopin. There is none of the peacefulness of the Chopin around, the word that comes to mind listening to this new album is the beautiful English word “eery”, actually, you never feel fully safe listening to this album.

Michael Wollny Nachtfahrten Christian Weber Eric Schaefer ACT 2015

Where does this eeriness come from? Well, very slow tempi, dark harmonics, a very light touch by Eric Schaefer on drums, but all this doesn’t even come close to describing the feelings you’ll get from this album.

The track titles like Nachtmahr, a rather unusual German translation of nightmare,  Feu Follet, French for will-o’-the-wisp, Marion (named after Marion Crane, the blonde victim of the Psycho shower scene), or Metzengerstein, the name of Edgar Allen Poe’s first novel, don’t really help. Well, you get the idea.

There are some slightly lighter titles like Ellen, which is one of the few occasions where the trio gets to show that they are able to swing really well, but even these don’t break the overall dark mood of the album.

Several journalists have asked the question whether this is Jazz, Pop, or contemporary classical. Well, honestly, who cares. It is impressive music, full of a strange and irritating energy, that will draw you into the music. This is anything but background music for a cocktail party. It needs your full attention (and dimmed lights).

My rating: 4 stars

Two videos to give you an example, one with Michael commenting on the album, unfortunately in German only.

You can find it here (Qobuz) or here (Highresaudio)