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Peter Ehwald - Septuor de Grand Matin Rating: 4 out of 5 The overall ensemble sound of Septuor de Grand Matin is brilliantly recognised, full of delightful small details within a convincing overall framework. A work of which Ehwald can be justifiably proud.

Peter Ehwald

“Septuor de Grand Matin”

(Jazzwerkstatt Records JW193)

The German saxophonist and composer Peter Ehwald has made a number of previous appearances on the Jazzmann web pages. The Berlin based artist has collaborated fairly frequently with British musicians, notably in the Anglo-German quartet Paragon alongside pianist Arthur Lea, drummer Jon Scott and bassist Matthias Akeo Nowak. Both of Paragon’s albums, 2010’s “Quarterlife Crisis” and 2014’s “Cerca” are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann, and each represents an impressive piece of work, particularly the début.

Ehwald has worked in a duo setting with the Danish born, London based bassist Henrik Jensen, releasing the intimate “Jensen / Ehwald” in 2012. Previously the pair had collaborated with drummer Wolfgang Hohn as The North Trio, releasing the excellent “Songs of Trees” on 33 Jazz in 2008.

Ehwald seems to have a particular affinity with bassists and in 2015 he brought his quartet Double Trouble to perform at The Vortex as part of that year’s EFG London Jazz Festival. This group featured two double bass players, Robert Landfermann and Andreas Lang, together with drummer Jonas Burgwinkel. I reviewed this exciting event as part of my Festival coverage and later spoke to the amiable Ehwald, plus his UK publicist of the time, Lee Paterson. I subsequently reviewed the quartet’s album “Double Trouble Live”, which featured performances from shows in Düsseldorf, Munich and Potsdam in 2013/14.
Album review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/peter-ehwald-double-trouble-live/

Ehwald’s other projects include Ensemble Su which teams him with the Korean musicians Bo-Sung (percussion and gayageum) and Kim and Hyo Jin Shin (percussion, vocals), the music drawing inspiration from the Korean sacred and classical traditions as well as from jazz and other Western genres.

Ehwald also works in a duo with pianist Stefan Schultze as well as appearing with the pianist in various other small group and large ensemble situations. It’s also Schultze who occupies the piano chair on this current album.

Ehwald’s latest release, “Septuor De Matin” places the emphasis on Ehwald the composer. It’s a semi-conceptual work comprised of nine pieces and the rationale behind it is perhaps best explained by reproducing Arthur Leas’s liner notes;

“Saxophonist and composer Peter Ehwald wrote the music for Le Septuor de Grand Matin in the blue light of the early morning hours. The work was born in the astute concentration of the peaceful calm before the day’s commitments. Ehwald worked intensively with processes of methodical composition, from which he developed the nine pieces. Oscillating between the jazz of ‘Wee Small Hours Of The Morning’ and Schönberg’s principle of variation, the listener is drawn into a dreamlike state of pure serenity. One can find 20th century European musical textures alongside free experimentation reminiscent of 1970s Jazz.

For his Septuor de Grand Matin (The Septet Of The Early Morning Hours) Peter assembled a terrific cast of musicians: Almut Kühne, Richard Koch, John Schröder, Stefan Schultze, Kathrin Pechlof and Matthias Akeo Nowak all interweave. Ehwald’s compositional specifications into a sublimely rhythmic chamber music - contemporary, and yet of timeless beauty”.

Peter Ehwald (tenor sax, composer)
Almut Kühne (vocals)
Richard Koch (trumpet)
Kathrin Pechlof (harp)
Stefan Schultze (piano)
Matthias Akeo Nowak (double bass)
John Schröder (drums)

Ehwald’s ‘suite’ actually begins with “Part V”.  The introductory fanfare, perhaps representing the sunrise, is followed by a gently pastoral interlude in which the instruments, plus Kuhne’s wordless vocals, approximate the sound of the dawn chorus as the new day arrives. Pechlof’s harp represents a particularly distinctive component, helping to bring an air of pastoral lyricism to the piece. Ehwald’s sound on the tenor is soft and breathy as the leader’s sax gradually comes into greater focus, his playing assured and fluent. However it’s probably fair to say that in the context of this album the emphasis is on the writing and the overall sound of the ensemble rather than individual jazz soloing.

“Part 1” is more dynamic and forceful but the ensemble playing remains tightly focussed with Kuhne, an integral figure in the group sound, again deploying her voice as an instrument. There’s a more conventional solo here as trumpeter Koch cuts loose in powerful fashion, but there’s also some excellent ensemble playing.

“Part III” is ushered in by a dialogue between Kuhne and pianist Schultze, the singer’s voice variously recalling Bjork and jazz vocal improvisers such as Sidsel Endresen and Julie Tippetts. There are lyrics here, but as these are presumably in German I’m not going to attempt any kind of analysis. Kuhne’s voice enters into the world of extended technique and she’s also involved in dialogues with other instrumentalists, among them harpist Pechlof and drummer Schroder. In the closing stages the music takes more of an anthemic turn courtesy of a soaring vocal, rousing horns and the thunder of Schroder’s mallet rumbles. This is music that rarely stands still with each composition offering variations in term of mood, style and dynamics within the realms of a single piece.

“Klassentreffen” offers further examples of Kuhne’s adventurous vocalising in a series of dizzying opening exchanges. This is a piece distinguished by its whirling, kinetic energy as the instrumentalists respond to the gauntlet thrown down by the singer, the whole driven by Schroder’s busily energetic drumming. Ehwald, Koch and Schultze all impress with their fiery contributions as they dovetail in mercurial fashion with Huhne’s astonishing vocals.

Still defying conventional scheduling Part IV comes next, a more impressionistic offering that delivers something of that serenity that Lea promises in his liner notes. Kuhne adopts a pure, high pitched tone for her vocals, her eerie pipings shadowed by piano,  harp, noirish muted trumpet and delicately brushed drums.

“Part II” ups the energy levels once more with Nowak and Schroder establishing a propulsive group above which voice, tenor and trumpet can soar with Ehwald himself supplying one of the most orthodox jazz solos of the set as his warm toned tenor takes fluent flight. Following this bass and drums assume the lead with something of a feature for the excellent Schroder, whose playing is colourful, inventive and intelligent throughout the album, skilfully combining power with sensitivity and adaptability.

Schroder’s versatility is immediately illustrated via the free jazz style intro to “Part VI” as he interacts with the sound of piano, trumpet and voice. Eventually a clearer structure becomes apparent on this, the longest piece on the album, the main melodic theme being carried by Kuhne’s Norma Winstone like wordless vocal. Instrumentally Schultze emerges from the ensemble to deliver an expansive piano solo on a piece that may remind British listeners of the works of pianist Jon Taylor and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler with similarly constituted ensembles back in the day.

“The No Tellah! has an irrepressible Latin tinged joyousness about it, rooted in Schroder’s vibrant drumming and embodied by Kuhne’s soaring vocal gymnastics and Koch’s powerful trumpet soloing.

The closing “Reprise” begins with a gentle chorale featuring trumpet, tenor and bowed bass, these subsequently joined by harp, brushed drums and Kuhne’s ever flexible wordless vocals. The overall sound is relaxed and gently ethereal, subtly blending the jazz and contemporary
classical elements of which Lea speaks.

With its mix of jazz and classical components and comparative lack of orthodox swing and conventional jazz soloing “Septuor de Grand Matin” won’t be to everybody’s tastes, some listeners perhaps finding it all a bit too abstract and ‘avant garde’.

Personally I’m rather impressed by it and by the way in which Ehwald draws the differing elements together to create a convincing whole. Besides the promised serenity there are plenty of grittier moments that help to add an agreeable frisson and edge to the music. That said, as I’ve observed previously there’s always an underlying lyricism in Ehwald’s writing and playing, even at its most adventurous or most extreme, such as the more vigorous exchanges of the highly rhythmic Double Trouble quartet.

The overall ensemble sound of Septuor de Grand Matin is brilliantly recognised, full of delightful small details within a convincing overall framework. As the producer of the record Ehwald is well served by the engineering team of Tito Knapp in Berlin and Christian Heck in Koln.

It almost seems invidious to pick out individual contributions but I couldn’t fail to be impressed by Huhne’s extraordinarily flexible and intelligent vocals, the singer’s larynx delivering a remarkable variety of sounds but always totally in context and with great musicality. Similar qualities inform Schroder’s drumming and he and Nowak constitute an excellent rhythm pairing.  Meanwhile Pechlof’s harp brings a particularly distinctive instrumental voice to the ensemble. The three jazz front-liners, Ehwald, Kock and Schultze all impress with their overall contribution and with their occasional full length solos.

As an instrumentalist Ehwald is essentially content to just be part as the ensemble, but as the composer and producer of this music it’s ultimately his album and to these ears “Septuor de Matin” is a work of which he can be justifiably proud.

Septuor de Grand Matin

Peter Ehwald

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Reviewed by: Ian Mann

Album Review

4 out of 5

Septuor de Grand Matin

The overall ensemble sound of Septuor de Grand Matin is brilliantly recognised, full of delightful small details within a convincing overall framework. A work of which Ehwald can be justifiably proud.

Peter Ehwald

“Septuor de Grand Matin”

(Jazzwerkstatt Records JW193)

The German saxophonist and composer Peter Ehwald has made a number of previous appearances on the Jazzmann web pages. The Berlin based artist has collaborated fairly frequently with British musicians, notably in the Anglo-German quartet Paragon alongside pianist Arthur Lea, drummer Jon Scott and bassist Matthias Akeo Nowak. Both of Paragon’s albums, 2010’s “Quarterlife Crisis” and 2014’s “Cerca” are reviewed elsewhere on the Jazzmann, and each represents an impressive piece of work, particularly the début.

Ehwald has worked in a duo setting with the Danish born, London based bassist Henrik Jensen, releasing the intimate “Jensen / Ehwald” in 2012. Previously the pair had collaborated with drummer Wolfgang Hohn as The North Trio, releasing the excellent “Songs of Trees” on 33 Jazz in 2008.

Ehwald seems to have a particular affinity with bassists and in 2015 he brought his quartet Double Trouble to perform at The Vortex as part of that year’s EFG London Jazz Festival. This group featured two double bass players, Robert Landfermann and Andreas Lang, together with drummer Jonas Burgwinkel. I reviewed this exciting event as part of my Festival coverage and later spoke to the amiable Ehwald, plus his UK publicist of the time, Lee Paterson. I subsequently reviewed the quartet’s album “Double Trouble Live”, which featured performances from shows in Düsseldorf, Munich and Potsdam in 2013/14.
Album review here;
http://www.thejazzmann.com/reviews/review/peter-ehwald-double-trouble-live/

Ehwald’s other projects include Ensemble Su which teams him with the Korean musicians Bo-Sung (percussion and gayageum) and Kim and Hyo Jin Shin (percussion, vocals), the music drawing inspiration from the Korean sacred and classical traditions as well as from jazz and other Western genres.

Ehwald also works in a duo with pianist Stefan Schultze as well as appearing with the pianist in various other small group and large ensemble situations. It’s also Schultze who occupies the piano chair on this current album.

Ehwald’s latest release, “Septuor De Matin” places the emphasis on Ehwald the composer. It’s a semi-conceptual work comprised of nine pieces and the rationale behind it is perhaps best explained by reproducing Arthur Leas’s liner notes;

“Saxophonist and composer Peter Ehwald wrote the music for Le Septuor de Grand Matin in the blue light of the early morning hours. The work was born in the astute concentration of the peaceful calm before the day’s commitments. Ehwald worked intensively with processes of methodical composition, from which he developed the nine pieces. Oscillating between the jazz of ‘Wee Small Hours Of The Morning’ and Schönberg’s principle of variation, the listener is drawn into a dreamlike state of pure serenity. One can find 20th century European musical textures alongside free experimentation reminiscent of 1970s Jazz.

For his Septuor de Grand Matin (The Septet Of The Early Morning Hours) Peter assembled a terrific cast of musicians: Almut Kühne, Richard Koch, John Schröder, Stefan Schultze, Kathrin Pechlof and Matthias Akeo Nowak all interweave. Ehwald’s compositional specifications into a sublimely rhythmic chamber music - contemporary, and yet of timeless beauty”.

Peter Ehwald (tenor sax, composer)
Almut Kühne (vocals)
Richard Koch (trumpet)
Kathrin Pechlof (harp)
Stefan Schultze (piano)
Matthias Akeo Nowak (double bass)
John Schröder (drums)

Ehwald’s ‘suite’ actually begins with “Part V”.  The introductory fanfare, perhaps representing the sunrise, is followed by a gently pastoral interlude in which the instruments, plus Kuhne’s wordless vocals, approximate the sound of the dawn chorus as the new day arrives. Pechlof’s harp represents a particularly distinctive component, helping to bring an air of pastoral lyricism to the piece. Ehwald’s sound on the tenor is soft and breathy as the leader’s sax gradually comes into greater focus, his playing assured and fluent. However it’s probably fair to say that in the context of this album the emphasis is on the writing and the overall sound of the ensemble rather than individual jazz soloing.

“Part 1” is more dynamic and forceful but the ensemble playing remains tightly focussed with Kuhne, an integral figure in the group sound, again deploying her voice as an instrument. There’s a more conventional solo here as trumpeter Koch cuts loose in powerful fashion, but there’s also some excellent ensemble playing.

“Part III” is ushered in by a dialogue between Kuhne and pianist Schultze, the singer’s voice variously recalling Bjork and jazz vocal improvisers such as Sidsel Endresen and Julie Tippetts. There are lyrics here, but as these are presumably in German I’m not going to attempt any kind of analysis. Kuhne’s voice enters into the world of extended technique and she’s also involved in dialogues with other instrumentalists, among them harpist Pechlof and drummer Schroder. In the closing stages the music takes more of an anthemic turn courtesy of a soaring vocal, rousing horns and the thunder of Schroder’s mallet rumbles. This is music that rarely stands still with each composition offering variations in term of mood, style and dynamics within the realms of a single piece.

“Klassentreffen” offers further examples of Kuhne’s adventurous vocalising in a series of dizzying opening exchanges. This is a piece distinguished by its whirling, kinetic energy as the instrumentalists respond to the gauntlet thrown down by the singer, the whole driven by Schroder’s busily energetic drumming. Ehwald, Koch and Schultze all impress with their fiery contributions as they dovetail in mercurial fashion with Huhne’s astonishing vocals.

Still defying conventional scheduling Part IV comes next, a more impressionistic offering that delivers something of that serenity that Lea promises in his liner notes. Kuhne adopts a pure, high pitched tone for her vocals, her eerie pipings shadowed by piano,  harp, noirish muted trumpet and delicately brushed drums.

“Part II” ups the energy levels once more with Nowak and Schroder establishing a propulsive group above which voice, tenor and trumpet can soar with Ehwald himself supplying one of the most orthodox jazz solos of the set as his warm toned tenor takes fluent flight. Following this bass and drums assume the lead with something of a feature for the excellent Schroder, whose playing is colourful, inventive and intelligent throughout the album, skilfully combining power with sensitivity and adaptability.

Schroder’s versatility is immediately illustrated via the free jazz style intro to “Part VI” as he interacts with the sound of piano, trumpet and voice. Eventually a clearer structure becomes apparent on this, the longest piece on the album, the main melodic theme being carried by Kuhne’s Norma Winstone like wordless vocal. Instrumentally Schultze emerges from the ensemble to deliver an expansive piano solo on a piece that may remind British listeners of the works of pianist Jon Taylor and trumpeter Kenny Wheeler with similarly constituted ensembles back in the day.

“The No Tellah! has an irrepressible Latin tinged joyousness about it, rooted in Schroder’s vibrant drumming and embodied by Kuhne’s soaring vocal gymnastics and Koch’s powerful trumpet soloing.

The closing “Reprise” begins with a gentle chorale featuring trumpet, tenor and bowed bass, these subsequently joined by harp, brushed drums and Kuhne’s ever flexible wordless vocals. The overall sound is relaxed and gently ethereal, subtly blending the jazz and contemporary
classical elements of which Lea speaks.

With its mix of jazz and classical components and comparative lack of orthodox swing and conventional jazz soloing “Septuor de Grand Matin” won’t be to everybody’s tastes, some listeners perhaps finding it all a bit too abstract and ‘avant garde’.

Personally I’m rather impressed by it and by the way in which Ehwald draws the differing elements together to create a convincing whole. Besides the promised serenity there are plenty of grittier moments that help to add an agreeable frisson and edge to the music. That said, as I’ve observed previously there’s always an underlying lyricism in Ehwald’s writing and playing, even at its most adventurous or most extreme, such as the more vigorous exchanges of the highly rhythmic Double Trouble quartet.

The overall ensemble sound of Septuor de Grand Matin is brilliantly recognised, full of delightful small details within a convincing overall framework. As the producer of the record Ehwald is well served by the engineering team of Tito Knapp in Berlin and Christian Heck in Koln.

It almost seems invidious to pick out individual contributions but I couldn’t fail to be impressed by Huhne’s extraordinarily flexible and intelligent vocals, the singer’s larynx delivering a remarkable variety of sounds but always totally in context and with great musicality. Similar qualities inform Schroder’s drumming and he and Nowak constitute an excellent rhythm pairing.  Meanwhile Pechlof’s harp brings a particularly distinctive instrumental voice to the ensemble. The three jazz front-liners, Ehwald, Kock and Schultze all impress with their overall contribution and with their occasional full length solos.

As an instrumentalist Ehwald is essentially content to just be part as the ensemble, but as the composer and producer of this music it’s ultimately his album and to these ears “Septuor de Matin” is a work of which he can be justifiably proud.


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