Thursday, 29 May 2014

An Interview With Adam Bałdych Before The Release of "The New Tradition"

I could find the chance to make an interview with Adam Bałdych after their duo concert with Yaron Herman in Ankara, Turkey . We talked about the new album from ACT, "The New Tradition", which will be released on May 30th, his musical progress in time and his ideas about jazz, music and the label ACT.  
F.E: As far as I have seen in your biography there are just two years between the time you became an important classical music violin player and interested in playing jazz. Considering that violin is not a mainstream instrument in jazz, I found it interesting that you found jazz as the most suitable genre for you at the age of just 13. How did you meet jazz and what is the special thing in jazz that hits you?

A.B: I was in my 5th year of music school when I found out jazz. There are still many stories about teachers who were afraid to accompany me during the exams. They never knew where we can go with the Bach, because I was always improvising some parts (laughter). This shows that I was always in need of improvisation so when I first got a chance to listen and see improvising jazz musicians I realized that this is what I was looking for. I felt in love in music when I found out I'm able to tell my own story through it but I needed improvisation to really do it!

F.E: What kind of music do you listen at home? Who are your favorite musicians?

A.B: I listen all kind of music. Classical, jazz, pop, indie rock. I'm collecting LP's and love to listen to them. Last weeks I listen a lot to Middle Age choir music - especially Thomas Tallis music. In the meantime Nick Drake, Keith Jarrett and Komeda Quintet with Stańko. I have a whole bunch of favourite artists.

F.E: Could you give some jazz violin players' names to me who influenced you in the beginning? Or else are there other musicians playing other instruments on your 'influences list'?

A.B: I started with music of Stephane Grapelli. He was always one of my gurus, even though I never wanted to play his style. I was also influenced by Polish violinists: Michal Urbaniak, Zbigniew Seifert and Maciej Strzelczyk. I'm a big fan of Didier Lockwood as well.

F.E: Your debut in ACT, Imaginary Room came with a very wide collaboration and a bright line-up. How did you feel about playing with such names in your first album in one of the most prominent jazz labels in Europe?

A.B: It was an honour to have those amazing artists on my album playing my music. Everyone there is an outstanding musician. That was also a challenge for me. ACT music proved that they believed in me and I did my best to prove I will use this chance to do my best. I'm very proud to have this album recorded, now the new one is on the way so it's really going on!

F.E: What do you think about the label ACT? How does it feel to be a part of them?

A.B: It is a bunch of great people who really love jazz! They give me space to release my music concept and they help me to make it visible. Siggi Loch is a person who knows exactly how to put together right people. I'm really happy to be part of ACT Family and hope they are too (laughter).

F.E: In Imaginary Quartet -your long term band with which I think you are still performing from time to time-, I can see that you are inspired a lot from your hometown Poland and I have got a classical music taste in my mind when I listened to the album. In my opinion your previous albums are very well under impression of rock more than jazz. In other words, the works sound harder before ACT. Both works with Baltic Gang (your debut in ACT), Iiro Rantala (two very successful albums) and your last duo album with Yaron Herman showed me that you get softer in sound with each album. Do you think so? Do you have a tendency to be more dignified in your style within each album?

A.B: I started as a young person who wanted to show his teachers and older musicians that I have my own way of understanding music. I listened to rock music at that time and I was impressed by guitar players. Big part of my technique was created by using guitar systems on my violin. But as I was more and more mature while creating my music, I started to understand, that you don't need to be loud to say something really firmly. In the world full of noise, loud advertisements, screams, the only cure is silence. I try to express high emotions not on the level of dynamic but of the level of details and colours of my sound.

F.E: Could you please give a little bit detail about last duo album "New Tradition" in which you worked with Yaron Herman? How was is to play with him? What is new and different for you in that album?

A.B: We had a great time in the studio. I tried to keep the spirit of the moment so we used mostly the first takes we made. Yaron and I, we see music in a similar way, we are different people, but we know how to inspire each other and how to communicate, that makes this cooperation interesting for us. This album is different from the last one because it's more intimate and mature. It's a concept album that tries to refer to my tradition, European classical music, Polish   Folk and Polish Jazz. I try to understand who I am, where I am coming from and where I'm going to. In the same time I just try to play all this music by showing the exact moment in my life, the way I see world and life and by sharing my emotions with people.

F.E: It seems that you have many compositions in this album as well as some other arrangements. What are the importance of the pieces and their compositors for you which you decided to arrange? How do you compose and what are the sources of inspiration?

A.B: I used music of middle ages and renaissance composers as Hildegard Von Bingen and Thomas Tallis. I found a real beauty in this music. It's simple but it says so much in the same time. This is the way I try to go with my art. Sometimes few beautiful and smart sentences are worth more than hundreds of words. I also used music of Polish Jazz artists - Krzysztof Komeda and Zbigniew Seifert. I compared it with my own compositions which I made while I was inspired by the concept of this album. So all together is one flow.

F.E: Please answer this next question of mine both as a listener and a musician lived in New York for a while. What are the differences between jazz played in Europe and United States for you nowadays?

A.B: There are many things to say about it. In my opinion New York Jazz scene continues tradition of mainstream jazz. The rythm and bluesy background is still the most important thing. European jazz is more sophisticated and more based on classical music. More interesting is the sound, colour and harmony. Of course this are just few simple examples.

F.E: What is the next step in your career?

A.B: To open my mind for new ideas and to try to develop it.

Thanks for answering these questions Adam. I hope this new album creates new paths for new ideas.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Help Curly Camel Record Their New Album!

Curly Camel have played together for seven years. They play modern, progressive jazz with hints of electronic music, classical music and everything in between. All original compositions.
These young musicians and their band may easily be powerful members of Swedish Jazz Scene in future.
They have worked on the material for their next album now for almost 4 years and they are finally ready to start the process of recording it. Their ambitions are higher than ever and this time they have the honor to be working with world famous modern jazz artist and producer Magnus Öström (Esbjörn Svensson Trio, Magnus Öström Group etc.).
They need to be financially supported for their next projects. Please donate and spread the word via the following link: 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Kekko Fornarelli Trio Did It! A Review For The Trio's Last Album Outrush

Born in Italy in 1978, having studied classical piano since his childhood period (started at the age of 3), interested in jazz after 18 and released two mainstream-jazz-influenced albums in 2005 and 2008, Kekko Fornarelli (born Francesco Fornarelli) decided to give a beneficial break for three years and renewed the projection of jazz in his mind during this hatch-like periodThis efficient period ended with the release of Room of Mirrors in 2011 from the label Auand. He answered many questions with this album. Questions belonged to himself and he asked them to the mirrors. Having gathered many good reactions and creating the opportunity for the trio to tour in several countries, this new era produced a really impressive piano trio work Outrush lately in 2014. Outrush is a very different album than Room of Mirrors not only with its line up but also with its overall sound definition. Although it seems that both albums seems to consist of music composed based on life experiences, the evolution and ongoing change of Kekko Fornarelli is obvious considering these two albums. In my humble opinion, Outrush is a kind of beginning of a new story. A unique story that will be soon heard by many piano jazz listeners interested in European sound.

The trio is Kekko Fornarelli on piano and synthesizers; Giorgio Vendola on double bass and Dario Congedo on drums. Guest appearance Roberto Cherillo is singing his own lyrics in the piece Don't Hide. All pieces of Outrush are composed by Kekko Fornarelli except The Big Bang Theory whose compositions belongs to Kekko Fornarelli, Luca Alemanno and Dario Congedo. Recorded, mastered and mixed by Tommy Cavalieri in Sorisso Studios in Bari Italy, the album is released from Abeat Records

The most remarkable aspect of Outrush is the catchy melodies used in compositions going on playing in your mind even after the first listening session. Although the themes are easy to hear and follow, the musical framing they are located on is complex and interesting enough. We can easily classify the genre as European Jazz, specify the style as contemporary piano trio jazz and mention classical, pop and a little bit rock music as influences. Another important feature of this work is the progressive structure of the pieces, which creates many surprising stages during the performances. In my opinion, the tension control of a jazz trio is an absolute must for their success and without doubt Kekko Fornarelli Trio achieved that thanks to these progressive structures and the band member's organic harmony. The energetic and groovy contribution of drummer Dario Congedo, the qualified bass solos given by Giorgio Vendola and characteristic piano tone of Kekko Fornarelli as well as his minimal synthesizer touches are highlights of this elegant album. The sound design (recording, mixing and mastering) is really successful. The distribution of the musicians on the stage, the weighting for each instrument and clarity in sound are all at top quality. The record includes organic sounds of the instruments. It seems that no filtering is applied and no artificial and unenthusiastic outputs are created. The physical design of the CD is made by Marina Damato and it is based on nice artworks created by Orietta Fineo. The organic style in the cover is reflecting the musical style of the album very well. The pencil drawing of Kekko Fornarelli is on the background of a pastel world.  

The Big Bang Theory starts with an interesting and well designed UPO (undefined played object), which is I think produced by a bow sliding on a double bass following a Fender Rhodes touch. The continuous structure of the signal becomes more unstable and mystic as it goes on dissolving. This indefinite introduction gives just little clues with some 'short short long' bass riffs added by a loop machine to the background which will be a prominent character throughout the piece. One hand of the piano (creating the base for the other hand) comes to the stage with a drum rhythm carrying many rests and with the first increase in the rhythm we start to listen to both hands together. These hands play a cool melody whose influences may be including some popular or rock music. Just before the second minute and second theme, the bow and synthesizer signals the next corner in the tension versus time graphic of the piece, which is drawn mostly by drummer's crash driven movements. Interestingly, piano follows a darker theme in this part. What comes up goes low and this energetic part results in an interesting calmness of the trio. Afterwards the piano concentrates on long notes played in a lyric style and this carries itself to a solo. This section feels like the scene after the big bang explosion. Everything distributes in space with ordinary physical rules of macro world. However, the tension is increased again mostly by piano followed by the others. In this new hopeful era, where new and exciting things emerge, the harmony of the trio is so good and the resultant sound is so organic that the listener can easily think that their collaboration has been going on for a long time. Once again, just before the sixth minute we hear the signals closing a part and opening the repetition of second part. The beginning of this last part is dominated by the crash of the drummer again and in the end the trio tries to finish the piece at the place where they start: Some naive piano touches are accompanied by some minimal drum beats and simple bass riffs. The piece leaves the audience as if the rise and falls will last forever. We can say that it's a successful choice to put such an energetic and qualified performance as the first number. 

We are on a train in Drawing Motion. The 'falling water'-like feeling of the piece -created by some circular piano chords and melancholic bow on Giorgio Vondola's bass- turns into a sad -but not blue- train on lonely railways for me when I hear the ultra fast but granular snare rhythms. The main body is given with a different drum section and piano starts to tell a different story in here with some rise&falls and long rests. The main theme for the piano is based on a catchy melody which I think is influenced by some classical music roots. The band is trying to decide which way to go when suddenly piano starts to play an impressive almost-solo part accumulating energy with each note. This is successfully and harmonically followed by the others. In between all these hand-shaking sessions, we can easily hear some mainstream jazz contributions from the piano. The first part is repeated. The double bass sounds more like a cello with its bow on mostly high registers in my opinion. I had to say that the main melody and its designed evolution with changes in rhythm are really impressive. Once again the tension goes high and comes to low and the finishing is very similar to beginning: calm, dignified and as naive as a train in an open green area. The unexpected rests in the piano creates an impressive atmosphere just before the end.

Weeping Souls introduces itself by some dialogue between keys and bass. On entering the stage, the drummer Dario Congedo decides on the way the piece will follow and an explosion creates an empty space for a wonderful double bass solo which is accompanied by some hard strokes on snares and some inanimate tones from piano, some of which -I think- is created by holding the strings of the piano. Giorgio Vondola ends its solo by connecting himself to a groovy main theme. Interestingly, Kekko Fornarelli prefers to perform with a distorted sound from the piano for a while after this amazing solo part. Later on, the trio gives the most important performance of the whole album after the 7th minute. It starts right after when everything seems to have finished. We first feel the crazy eyes of the piano and then the drummer initializes an energetic journey over the drum set. I can visualize in my mind his octopus-like image moving continuously from right to left and then back again. Even in this speed, the granularity of the touch and clearness of the tone is impressive. I wish -just as a simple listener- this improvisation-smelling part could go on forever.

Reasons is probably the most melancholic piece of the album. The title may refer to reasons given by two lovers to each other trying to explain why things have changed. A very slow rhythm is carried by the drummer throughout the piece with minimum, certain and low volume touches. The bass solo -whose clues are given in the beginning- after the second minute starts with a very touching tone created again by the bow travelling mostly on high registers. The touchy main melody that Giorgio Vondola follows is a really soulful one which in my opinion presents the Mediterranean spirit of the band. This is certainly the most unique character of the album. The piano follows the bass solo almost on its footprints. This is absolutely a fantastic soundtrack for a European style film about love. A problematic and a beautiful love...

What Kept You So Late starts with computerized beats which are followed by some basic piano riffs of one hand and a 'my personal statement'-like main theme of the other one. The title is inspired from Samuel Beckett's 'Waiting for Godot' as far as we learn from extended liner notes. The synthesizer used in between and the choice for rhythm equipment are excellent. The harmony between band members and the organic texture of the overall sound are impressive. The transitions between main parts and the very well designed synthesizer contribution in various instants are highlights of the composition and the performance. The main character of this piece is piano, which is chosen to be distorted from time to time.  

Like A Driftwood is almost at the place where the piece Reasons left us. A dark and melancholic piano tone, which makes the intro as solo, is again accompanied by a slow tempo drum and a basic bass line. A ballad like main theme is crying between many dark layers and a little hope is trying to smile. One hand of the piano is symmetric with the bass and I think the other hand is the storyteller. It is a story of an old and wise tree according to the extended liner notes again. Especially the concentration of each musician on their instruments and the success in recording the tails and details of every sound are impressive properties of this piece.   

An impressive male vocal meets us in Don't Hide starting from the first second. Actually, Roberto Cherillo and Kekko Fornarelli have been performing together in the duo project Shine for about a year now and in this piece, Roberto accompanies the whole trio with his own lyrics and almost-theatrical performance. The first words are accompanied just by piano and a dark fate-like feeling is supplied by double bass' surprising signals coming from lower octaves. There are certainly two different characters in the piece. The first character is dark and anxious. The other one is hopeful. Roberto Cherillo presents these two characters with two different vocal style. The first voice is dark and flat which tries to use lower octaves. The other one is high-pitch and soulful. We learn from extended liner notes that these characters are super ego and the imaginary/wished/utopian one.    

The title track Outrush is presented in the end. This is like presenting the main idea of the whole album in the end. It's certainly an uptempo piece (regardless of its beats per minute) carrying mixed emotions. You can feel the hopeful part in this bohemian melancholy which started with some untidy synthesizer outputs resolved with a European piano trio sound. This first energetic part is rested for a while with a naive bass solo which is accompanied by some minimal piano and then a similar solo is performed by the piano. Meanwhile, the drummer Dario Congedo does not give up holding the overall tension of the piece at high levels and becomes the fuel of this long and difficult travel or 'escape'. The main theme is so energetic that it can sometimes gives a feeling to the listener to even headbang. 

I totally agree on what Paolo Fresu said for Kekko Fornarelli and would like to finish my review with these words: "As long as there are musicians as open minded as Kekko Fornarelli, jazz will carry on being the World's music. Kekko’s intimacy is made of rich melodies and chord progressions which evoke some delicate forms of modern jazz, but are translated by that particular touch which makes him one of the most interesting young pianist of the moment."

You can use this link to buy the album online: 

If you want to listen Kekko Fornarelli lively you can try to catch the concerts announced in his webpage: 

#kekkofornarelli #kekko #fornarelli

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Arne Jansen, The Sleep of Reason, Ode To Goya, 2013

It was like love at first sight. The first time his album started spinning inside the player with his modestly named tune (compared to a qualified guitarist almost at the age of forty) "Still Learning", I was truly impressed by this work of Berlin based guitarist Arne Jansen which came as a debut from the label ACT in May 2013. The album caught me not only with this smooth introduction but also with the first sentence of the liner notes which is a quote from Francisco de Goya (the inspiration residing on the back bone of the whole album): "Imagination abandoned by Reason produces impossible monsters; united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the source of their wonders." This quote and the Goya's related painting -Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, 1799- gives its title to this work.

Arne Jansen has been playing with many bands such as Jazzanova, Nils Wülker Group and Firomanum as well as with his own trio for years. In addition to 5 years in University of Art, Berlin, he has studied with prominent jazz guitarists such as Pat Metheny, John Abercrombie and Kurt Rosenwinkel. He has two albums with Firomanum in his discography and two more with his own trio (Younger Than That Now and My Tree). His last album The Sleep of Reason, Ode to Goya (first from ACT), which is the main subject in my review, has been very successful and he received ECHO Jazz Award in 2014 as "Instrumentalist of the year national / guitar".

The most impressive feature of the album The Sleep of Reason for me is Arne Jansen's dignified and unique guitar tone. From beginning to end we listen to a guitarist who is concentrated on nuances of each note he plays. In my humble opinion, the warm texture of the album is mostly created by his warm sound. Besides, his talent in composing is evident both for the fresh authenticity and complexity in the album. The compositions (and arrangements) are not as easy as a boring Kenny G. performance and are not as complex as some analytically designed piano trio work. We can easily define the overall genre of the album as jazz but with a strong connection to progressive rock and some tangential links to fusion. Another point to be mentioned is the success of drummer Eric Schaefer, who is an ACT artist too. His contribution in the groove of the whole album is huge. Andreas Edelmann (bass), Friedrich Paravicini (Hammond organ, keys, cello, vibraphone), Stephan Braun (cello), Nils Wülker (flugelhorn) are other musicians accompanying Arne Jansen in various tracks. Co-producer Axel Reinemer (with Arne Jansen) made the recording and mixing in the Jazzanova Studios in Berlin. The mastering is accomplished by Klaus Scheuermann.

Stilll Learning is like an easy and white entrance to the building of the album each of whose walls are painted with a different colour. The composition has a catchy melody and Arne Jansen's unique guitar tone concentrated on tails of each sound makes the piece an impressive one.

Rise & Fall is getting the listener warmer with its progressive-like structure which is actually turning around a single main theme and coloured by some energetic transitions between variations of this theme. Eric Schaefer's impressive energy on the drum set is obvious in this piece. Check especially how he fills all the space given to him by naive bass and guitar. 

Love is Blindness is a hit from U2 and it faces us with a very nice arrangement in this album. The performance starts with a calm, dignified and low level guitar tone. This feels like a wise-man starts to talk in a crowded meeting and everyone around locks into his voice. Less is more. The tail of the sounds of the guitar let the listeners think and concentrate. Arne Jansen's control over what he produces from his instrument is impressive. Galloping-like rhythms of the drums, which are achieved mostly on toms and started after some cello addition from Stephan Braun, let the tune enter to a new stage where Arne Jansen is driving on high registers increasing the tension.

The arrangement for Jeff Beal's Golden looks like a basic solo acoustic guitar piece at first sight. The arpeggio-like introduction followed by long, solid and durable notes from the guitar gives a pastoral aura to the piece.

The Great He-Goat is a powerful composition with surprising rise & falls. Especially the double bass solo in the middle and the transition part between the main body and this double bass solo, whose deep background is built up by guitar, Hammond and drums, worth attention.

Pilgrimage's rock-like sound is dominated by distortion guitar and it carries a little bit progressive feeling. Even the first parts may sound hard, there is also a very peaceful aura where the quartet can talk to each other and the layers of each dialogue is very "al dente". 

San Antonio starts with a virtuosic and multi-layer guitar which is accompanied by nice tone of Nils Wülker's flugelhorn later on. A dialogue between two instruments based on a nice pictorial story is supplied by some keys.

Divina sounds almost like a piano trio piece. The naive and mid-tempo main theme is carried by guitar. The bass solo is again impressive and melodic. The drum partitions are cymbal dominant and rich in texture. The tensional rise and falls are followed by the band members in a flawless harmony. 

Tauromaquia starts like a Spanish song carrying an additional distortion for the guitar. We experience once again a virtuosic and successful trial on the instrument. It is fast and energetic. The drummer Eric Schaefer is very well at playing from low volumes and he has a tremendous control on his instrument while he is decreasing the width of his movements without letting the granularity of his touches disappear. 

Presentiments is a naive solo guitar piece, which is almost like a signal to the ending of the album. If the spacing between last two tracks were shorter, I could easily define Presentiments as the intro of the next piece, Brothers in Arms. 

With Brothers in Arms Arne Jansen and his band present another arrangement for a popular rock song (by Dire Straits). The introduction of this slow tempo work is made by multi-layer guitar which is accompanied by some drum texture and basic bass lines. The guitar stays alone for a while after this introduction with its reverberant tone which makes the audience feels alone too, and then -with sudden touches of drummer on snare- the band makes an impressive return to where they left. 

Nowadays, Arne Jansen is performing mostly with Jazzanova, his own trio (Eric Schaefer and Andreas Edelmann) or Nils Wülker Group. You can see his schedule to listen to him lively: