Saturday, February 27, 2021
“I don’t think I have ever known a musician with quite the level of openness to people, to emotions, to musical languages, and the capacity to make them his own as Florian Willeitner. He is a stun-ningly good violinist, and I discover something new every time I hear him.” Paul Zauner, Founder & Artistic Director, INNtöne Festival
In the past the violin in jazz could sometimes seem a bit exo-tic, even outlandish, but all that has changed. Classical music and jazz are no longer mutually exclusive worlds; these days they en-rich each other, and it is the norm for string instruments to take centre stage. The ACT label has played its part in this transforma-tion, with artists such as the Bartolomey/Bittmann duo, the ra-dio.string.quartet.vienna and the incomparable Adam Baldych among the pioneers who created the paradigm shift, and who continue to take their music in new directions.
And yet, as violinist/composer Florian Willeitner from Passau in Southern Germany sees it, there is still further to go: “The full potential of the violin, with its unique versatility and its kaleidoscopic possibilities of timbre and texture, is rarely to be heard in conventional jazz settings.”
And from this he has derived his credo as both composer and instrumentalist: “It is my firm belief that in order to write music which uses the violin’s great spectrum of possibilities, it is crucial not just to have an awareness of the classical tradition, but also of the many other cultures which feature string instruments prominently and in which unique approaches and techniques have been developed. To blend these different ingredients into a trans-cultural style which is respectful to each of these distinct traditions is what inspires me.”
Willeitner, who was the star student of top violinist Benjamin Schmid, has been travelling the world and studying a wide variety of different musical cultures since the age of 19. During his classical studies, completed in 2017, he experimented with new ways of writing for orchestra, notably in his Violin Concerto No. 1, which had its first performance in the Vienna Musikverein. With his “New Piano Trio” he has spent several years refining this cross-genre composition and performance. In 2018 he founded “Pool of Invention”, an international artists' collective. With this collective he has focused his efforts on highly efficient transcultural art. The collective is a creative partner of leading festivals such as Mozart Week in Salzburg, directed by Rolando Villazón.
Larry Coryell & Philip Catherine - Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic XI: The Last Call (February 2021 ACT Music)
The wheel has come full circle with the album “Last Call”, featuring the duo of Larry Coryell and Philip Catherine. This live recording from the Philharmonie in Berlin captures the culmination of an evening under the banner “Art of Duo” in Siggi Loch’s “Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic” series.
After four decades, it marks the two guitarists’ return to the scene of one of their very first major triumphs. In 1976 they appeared as part of the band 11th House at the Berliner Jazztage at the same venue, but it was the moment when just the two of them stepped forward and performed as a duo which the “Die Zeit”’s critic hailed as possibly the high point of the whole festival. It was a decisive step in what would become a highly successful collaboration.
Coryell and Catherine subsequently made two superb studio albums: “Twin House” (Atlantic, 1977), recorded in London, and the very fittingly named “Splendid” (Elektra, 78), recorded in Hamburg. Both of these LPs have definitely stood the test of time. Both also had the same producer, who credi-ted on the sleeve as “Siegfried E. Loch”. As he wrote to both the musicians in November 2016 on the 40th anniversary of the recording of “Twin House”: “I am pleased that we are going to be celebrating this music in the concert on 24 January 2017 in Berlin." On “Last Call” Coryell and Catherine play four num-bers, followed by first-time appearances of duos consisting of Philip Catherine and pianist Jan Lundgren and then of Larry Coryell with bassist Lars Danielsson, plus a valedictory jam on “Green Dolphin Street” with all four of these musicians plus trumpeter Paolo Fresu.
Coryell and Catherine, two “brilliant, mutually attuned musicians” as the liner note for “Twin House” describes them, were born less than six months apart during the Second World War. Texas-born Coryell and London-born Catherine have different musical heritages, but their affinity and above all their complementarity shone through every time they played together. When playing as part of larger units, there would always be at least 20 minutes when the pair would perform as a duo.
Diego Pinera is a unique figure who is genuinely taking music in new directions by juxtaposing the po-lyrhythmic freedom of jazz with other metric systems. As he says, “I studied music in the places where it came from.” He started playing drums as a four-year old in Montevideo. His student years were spent in Havana, Boston (Berklee) and Leipzig.
Based in Berlin since 2003, he has continued to wi-den his musical horizons, immersing himself in the ‘odd’ meters of the title through extensive work with Berlin-based musicians from Greece and Bulgaria.
‘Wisdom’ here refers not just to Pinera’s accretion of wide knowledge and consummate skill, but also to mystery and alchemy: the track “Conversations With My-self” is a hushed, concentrated masterpiece. His ear for fresh colours and timbres is astonishing.