Piano Night (Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic VII) – So Much Fun – A Review

Three Great Pianists

Wow. An album that combines three very talented Jazz pianists.

I’ve shared my admiration for the German pianist Michael Wollny several times (see here, here, and here for example), and have also mentioned him in my 25 Essential Jazz albums.

I’ve also already written about the Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala previously (see my review of Anyone with a Heart here).

Leszek Mozdzer from Poland is the only artist I haven’t written about yet, but his album Komeda is very much worth checking out.

As regular readers of my blog will have seen, I was quite a regular visitor at the Berlin Philharmonic concert hall, but I’m quite sad I missed this particular pan-European concert evening that was recorded live in 2016.

 

Leszek Mozdzer, Iiro Rantala, Michael Wollny – Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic VII – Piano Night (ACT 2017)

Leszek Modzdzer Iiro Rantala Michael Wollny Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic VIII Piano Night 24/48 ACT 2017

Let me start with the highlight of this album: Chick Corea´s La Fiesta, from his legendary Return to Forever album. I’m very sure Corea would endorse this fantastically energetic live version. There is one Fender Rhodes electric piano involved, similar to the sound of Corea´s famous 1970s band. It is hard to tell just from listening who plays the Fender, but the booklet makes it clear: the three actually take turns!

Highlight number two is another Jazz standard, Gershwin´s Summertime, in a fantastic version.

But don’t expect the other songs to be of any lower level, from the very first second you’ll get absorbed by three outstanding musicians who clearly have a lot of fun together. Some of the previous tracks are originals. Rantala contributes Freedom, and Mozdzer She Said She Was A Painter.

If you like energetic piano jazz, this album is highly recommended.

My rating: 4 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz) and here (Prostudiomasters).

If you don’t like downloads, you’ll need to go with the 180g vinyl pressing, as this album is not available as a regular CD.

Michael Wollny Klangspuren (Live in Hamburg) – A Review

How did I miss this?

There is a live Wollny trio album out there and I only find out about it a year later. How is this possible? My bad.

Especially after I’ve attended his concert in Basel just some weeks after this album was released (see my concert review here).

But well, better late than never.

Michael Wollny Trio In Concert: Klangspuren – Live in Hamburg (ACT 2016)

I’m a big Wollny fan (thanks to an old friend from highschool who initially introduced me to him). See for example my reviews of his album Nachtfahrten, or my mention of one of his previous live albums in my 9 Outstanding Live Jazz albums. His album Weltentraum was also mentioned in my 25 Essential Jazz albums.

Michael Wollny Trio In Concert Klangspuren Live in Hamburg ACT 2016

 

 

 

This album is very close in spirit (and material) to the live concert I saw at Kaserne Basel in 2016. Given that it is to a large extend based on his Nocturne-style album Nachtfahrten, it has a lot of long, quiet, but intense passages. My favorite song is White Moon.

Wollny plays with his usual trio of Christian Weber and Eric Schaefer.

But don’t worry, the lion Wollny is occasionally let out of his cage for one of his more improvising elements.

Looking back at his recent studio albums, I rated Weltentraum a full 5 star, while Nachtfahrten was still nice, but only received a 4 star rating.

When we get to live albums, I´d suggest you get one of the Weltentraum live albums first, but this album is still very much worth having.

Wollny remains one of the most important Jazz pianists of our days.

My rating: 4 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz) and here.

FYI, If you prefer to buy it as a physical album you also get a collectors edition that includes a DVD.

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)