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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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ACT 9592-2



Questions in a world of blue (Badalamenti)

Nachtmahr (Wollny, Weber, Schaefer)

Der wanderer (Wollny)

Motette no. 1 (Schaefer)

White moon (Beier)

De desconfort (De Machaut, Guillaume)

Metzengerstein (Wollny)

Feu follet (Wollny, Weber, Schaefer)

Ellen (Schaefer)

Nocturne (Wollny)

Marion (Herrmann)

Au clair de la lune (traditional)

Odile et odette (Wollny)

Nachtfahrten (Wollny)

Michael Wollny (piano): Christian Weber (bass): Eric Schaefer (drums) [47:12]

Nachtfahrten is Michael Wollny’s latest album, a Whisteleresque Nocturne of a disc. It sheds light on darkness and seeks refuge from the light through fourteen largely withdrawn but beautifully calibrated, brief tracks. I’m working from a promo disc without notes but it’s still easy to intuit how this spare, allusive and evocative album operates. From the Twin Peaks music, with which the disc opens, which is redolent of hymnal solemnity and brief romanticist chording amidst the melancholy reflectiveness, we are in the hands of a master of texture. Christian Weber’s deep, rich bass and Eric Schaefer’s telling contributions at the drums ensure a real narrative in just three minutes. This is a true trio and whilst superficially the opposite here of the hyper-kinetic, super-virtuosic strutting of a trio like The Bad Plus, there are some strange similarities between them – not least of a democracy of contribution from the three musicians.

The overarching mood here is of a spare, almost elliptical refinement – Nachtmahr – as well as a kind of refined balladic tracery that generates increasing conversational depth (Der Wanderer). Wollny frequently calls on Classical precedent – Guillaume de Machaut’s De Desconfort is not your standard trio assignment but is very beautifully absorbed into the trio’s bloodstream through deft interplay, and heady romance. The drummer’s composition, Ellen, is more straight-ahead, blues-inflected piece though it too serves to highlight the unusual song selections elsewhere – such as Bernard Herrmann’s Marion music from Psycho. The principal mood here and largely throughout the album is one of meditative slowness in which the trio manage to convert short pieces of music into broad vistas of time and space. The title track, by far the longest at six minutes, has wide-spaced chords, emphatic percussion and looks back to the opening Twin Peaks music to cross-reference in a way that gives the disc a kind of cyclical movement.

If I could nominate a jazz Record of the Year, this would be it.

Jonathan Woolf

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