Nov 9 2014
Saxophonist and composer Malte Schiller has a couple new albums out. Schiller is part of a new generation of jazz musicians from the Berlin scene, and like with any healthy scene, they collaborate and perform and compose for the ensembles of one another.
Today, I’m highlighting two different Schiller projects: his Red Balloon and his Octet.
Malte Schiller Octet – All the Way
The Malte Schiller Octet is a fusion of a saxophone quartet and a cello quartet. And while the immediate assumption about All the Way would be that this is a chamber jazz session, in fact, it falls squarely into straight-ahead modern jazz territory and simply brings the strings into the fold. It’s more music for the heart than the head, and its abundant exuberance and warmth back that assertion up.
“Sir David Brewsters Invention” comes out strong with tenor sax lighting the path for the ensemble. Title-track “All the Way” develops a little groove, one that occasionally sways with an appealing gait. Strings, guitar, then sax each spend some time in the spotlight, leading the ensemble ahead.
“Even If Things Fall Apart” whips about frenetically, with a melody parsed out in segments, as much defined by their succinct beauty as their delivery in quick bursts of motion. At the other end of the spectrum, “I’ll Stay and Watch” shows just how beautiful the music can get when they wrap simple, sweet melodies in the folds of gentle harmonies. Further evidence of this is found in album finale “The Briar and the Rose,” where a soft touch and a slow, relaxed pace results in a most beautiful tune.
Your album personnel: Malte Schiller (tenor sax, bass clarinet, flute), Andreas Lang (bass), Reinhold Schmölzer (drums), Jan-Olaf Rodt (guitar), and Dan Weinstein, Sol Daniel Kim, Lauren Franklin-Steinmetz, Liron Yariv (cellos).
Released on Unit Records.
Note: There’s conflicting information whether this was released in 2014 or 2012. It’s possible that 2014 represents its first digital release or, perhaps, it was self-produced in 2012 but not released to the mass public via Unit Records until 2014.
Malte Schiller’s Red Balloon – Not So Happy
On the sophomore release of Malte Schiller’s Red Balloon, he adds a string section to his modern large ensemble formation. With an emphasis on the wind instruments, Schiller’s Red Balloon ensemble shows every inclination to wade knee-deep into harmonic waters… and adding strings to the mix has them moving into the deep end. On Not So Happy, Schiller balances out those harmonies with unexpected plot twists built around the development of melodic fragments. It keeps the ear guessing while it drinks in the warmth of the ensemble’s harmonic waves.
Album-opener “First Thought” comes out swinging and “Night Quiet” sheds its form and cries out with ominous tones, only regaining its form as it becomes more aggressive, its motion a driving force.
But no track better epitomizes the common traits of this recording than does the title-track “Not So Happy.” Stones throws of ideas ripple out and become surges growing into waves of thick harmonies, big melodic themes and rhythms that are both patient and intense. The thing of it is, this can happen several times in a song’s duration, leading to exciting changes of pace and tone and expression each time Schiller tosses another stone into the center of the pond.
The thick blues of “You Got Away With That” and the light swing of “Do the Victor” provide some definition to the boundaries of the recording, illustrating the room the ensemble has in which to roam while simultaneously drawing out the commonalities between tracks that provide the recording its cohesion. “The Pond” is all warmth and delicate touch. Piano carries the song forward, with strings aiding the cause. It’s a nice bit of softness on an album that tends toward big sounds.
Your album personnel: Malte Schiller (tenor sax, flute, clarinet), Vera van der Bie, Peter Grond (violins), Noortje Köhne (viola), Jur de Vries (cello), Charlotte Greve (soprano & alto saxes, clarinet, flutel), Uli Kempendorff (tenor sax, clarinet, bass clarinet), Viktor Wolf (baritone sax, bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet), Stefan Rocke (bassoon), Florian Menzel, Johannes Böhmer (trumpet, flugelhorn), Linus Bernoulli (horn), Andrej Ugoliew (trombone), Hannes Oppel (bass trombone), Jan Schreiner (bass trombone, tuba), Manuel Schmiedel (piano), Andreas Waelti (bass), and Reinhold Schmölzer (drums).
Released on Unit Records.