Winner of the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Best Media, 2019


Please Keep Writing About Jazz!

by Ian Mann

May 06, 2020

Stockholm based jazz fan Mariana Vodovosoff writes in praise of the work of The Jazzmann, discusses the music of one of her heroes, pianist Michael Wollny, & shares thoughts on the Swedish jazz scene.

Photograph of Michael Wollny at the 2014 Brecon Jazz Festival by Tim Dickeson


The Jazzmann recently received an email from a Stockholm based jazz fan thanking us for the work that we do and the service that we provide to jazz listeners. It was very gratifying for me to read her words of praise and to know that the hard work of the Jazzmann team is appreciated and valued by jazz fans, wherever they may be. Music is truly an international language.

Under the heading “Please keep writing about jazz!” Mariana Vodovosoff also provided an interesting account of her meeting with one of her musical heroes, the German pianist and composer Michael Wollny, in October 2019. This discussed a number of Wollny’s projects and was full of fascinating insights that I felt should be shared with the wider Jazzmann readership.

The Jazzmann has reviewed several albums and a number of live performances featuring Wollny over the course of the last decade. To my mind he’s the most creative and distinctive European ‘jazz’ pianist to emerge since Esbjorn Svensson. Wollny’s music combines a formidable, classically honed, technique with a keen intelligence and a willingness to explore music across a variety of genres. Wollny’s blurring of the musical boundaries has embraced jazz, classical, rock and electronic music, sometimes taking inspiration from other art forms, notably cinema and literature.

To these ears Wollny’s music has always retained a strong German identity, rooted in a deep ‘Gothic’ sensibility. It ensures that his music sounds very different from conventional ‘American’ jazz, yet still retains the art of improvisation at its core. There’s a ‘darkness’ about Wollny’s music that some have found to be something of an acquired taste, but even so the energy and sheer brilliance of his live performances, allied to the quality and intelligence of his recordings have led to him becoming one of the most acclaimed and most popular ‘jazz’ musicians in Europe. 

When he first emerged with the {em} trio, featuring bassist Eva Kruse and drummer Eric Schaefer, jazz commentators were stunned by the punk like energy and intensity of the group’s performances, whilst being simultaneously being dazzled by the brilliance of Wollny’s prodigious piano technique. If some of the white heat of those early days has now dissipated a little Wollny has maintained the power to mesmerise critics and audiences alike thanks to his willingness to take musical risks and to keep pushing at perceived boundaries. Nobody sounds quite like him and at just forty one years of age one senses that there is still much, much more outstanding music to come from him.

Mariana also wrote briefly about her experiences during the current Covid-19 lockdown, and its effect on the Swedish cultural scene, plus the importance of music to all of us during this difficult and challenging time.

I will hand over to her now and hope that you will enjoy reading what she has to say. Over to you, Mariana, and thank you for your kind words about the Jazzmann and for your fascinating insights into the musical world of Michael Wollny (together with all the accompanying links), plus your observations on the Swedish jazz scene and the current lockdown.


I decided to send you some lines, to thank you! The Jazzmann site has turned out to be a great discovery, and I like the new design!

I have been reading The Jazzmann for months now, and it’ s like a jazz encyclopedia to me. I have learned so much by slowly getting through different reviews and checking up artists as I go along on my jazz journey. I admire this project of yours and I do not understand how you find time to write it all, to listen to all the records and to see all those shows. I appreciate your guest contributors, but I always find that your texts are the best, even when I don’t agree with you!

I seldom seem to find friends that are interested in jazz and miss the opportunity to discuss the music I love. And if I occasionally find people that like jazz, we don’t appreciate the same artists. Besides it’s mostly men that are into jazz and they always end up mansplaining everything to me, telling me what to like or not like, and they are seldom interested in my opinions.

But I really like your reviews! They are full of pointers and opinions that help me to listen better. Details or sounds that I would not have appreciated or even heard. I also like the way you put the recordings or performances in context and give background information.

So, I have been listening to old records, buying new and reading and listening again to discover new sounds and artists. The combination of BBC Sounds Jazz and The Jazzmann has broadened my horizon for contemporary British jazz. The Swedish jazz scene is rather small, so it’s good to be able to listen for new music and artists elsewhere.

As a child I tried so very hard to learn to read notes when I played the violin. But I never conquered the dots and played by ear for as long as I could. Eventually I was given an ultimatum by a new music teacher and forced to give up playing. So, it’s always with a lack of confidence that I approach music, but it gives me so much joy and pleasure, it moves me deeply and few things lift my spirit like music.

With all my heart and ears, thank you for all your hard work and your great cultural achievement. Please keep writing about jazz, and stay safe, sane, wise and kind!




Last autumn (October, 2019) I met one of my favourite musicians, Michael Wollny. I took a trip to Oslo to listen to a project I had been curious about, called “Rules of Behaviour”. It features The Norwegian Wind Ensemble (Det Norske Blåsennsanble) with Michael Wollny and conductor Geir Lysne. Michael Wollny is Artist in Residence with the Norwegian Wind Ensemble and together they have been exploring improvisation with classical musicians for a couple of years now. This is categorised as “contemporary music”,  but being Michael Wollny it contains jazz - the improvisation is there and it’s real - for all the musicians.

I don’t know about any other classical ensemble that would be able to freely improvise like that, I lack the music vocabulary to attempt to formulate what it sounded like. But it was really interesting. I was also very intrigued with what happened with us, the public, and our experience of the music. It was like the rules of public behaviour in a classical venue like the Oslo Opera, was swept away, and we were interacting in ways I have not experienced before. I don’t think I have ever interconnected with people in the seats around me like that time, and after the performance, we, previously complete strangers, kept talking to each other (they in Norwegian and me in Swedish), about what we had heard and seen.

Such a great music experience - but it got even better when I had coffee with Michael Wollny the following morning. Took a lot of effort not to get starstruck and I managed to talk about film and especially silent movies, which are a great passion of mine.

When he asked me what I thought about the concert, I tried to explain that for me it felt like a performance. I wish I could have said more about the music, but I talked about the experience of seeing the musicians moved around and create new formations on the stage as they met up in different constellations on the stage. One was lying down at the beginning of the concert, another sat on the edge of the stage and at some point, they even sang a bit in a folkloristic way! All that surprised us, the musicians were not behaving like we were used to seeing them behave, and that was part of our perception and reaction.

The musicians from the Norwegian Wind ensemble I spoke to in Oslo told me that they have no idea how it is going to sound or how long they are going to play each time and they really need to listen to it afterwards to grasp the experience. So, they record the concerts.

In January 2020 they had a second session with “Rules of Behaviour II”, so it’s really a work in progress. Their conductor Geir Lysne told me they been working on this for some years now, and there is always new experiences and dynamics emerging between the classical musicians when they work together. The Norwegian Wind ensemble also features on some tracks of Michaels Wollny’s latest trio record, “Oslo”.

Michael Wollny told me that his next recording will be a solo piano album, so looking forward to that. His two solo records complement my film eyes, and I am so curious about where he is heading this time. Let’s hope the third solo album will be just as good as the others and that we all soon get to listen to live music again!

Link to the Norwegian Wind ensemble (in Norwegian, but with good film clips):


In the beginning of 2019 Wollny premièred the commission “Bau.Haus.Klang” for the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus movement. I saw the concert on the ARTE channel, and I was blown away! I mean, can it get any better with Leafcutter John and his magical instruments and Wollny duetting with a phonola, a music machine from 1920’s that operates a second grand piano programmed by Wolfgang Heisig. And on top on that - the great Emile Parisien on soprano sax - all this to invent the illusion of the sound of the Bauhaus movement, a sound that never actually existed!  Mind blowing, and it excuses the re-using of music that we have heard before.

In November they played at the London Jazz Festival. I so wanted to travel to London and see this live, but if was not possible due to my work commitments. (I really regret this now!)

The concert:



“Late Night” - Between Jazz and Classical Music – Michael Wollny and Christian Jost The Philharmonie in Berlin has recently opened their online concerts for free, and there is one with Wollny and Christian Jost. During 2019 Wollny toured with Jost, a well-known composer and conductor of classical music and opera.

This project of jazz and classical music was about a “boundless musical universe”. A meeting between two musicians with a common language and approach “as spontaneous as possible”. But strangely it does not feel like an equal meeting. For me Wollny belongs in both worlds, jazz and classical - so this puzzles me.

When Christian Jost’s compositions proceed so effortlessly in this classical context, it becomes evident, but I can’t put my finger on what I react to. Michael Wollny plays his pieces in his masterly and wonderful way and so do the competent musicians and members of the Berliner Philharmoniker.

Could it be my preconceptions that stand in the way, or is it the new the arrangements of, for me, well known pieces? Or the fact that the only one really improvising is Wollny?

I appreciate it when music genres come together in dialogue or even merge at some point. I grew up listening to my father’s records of Astor Piazzolla. The bold mixing of traditional tango, classical music and jazz had a force, that only true innovation has. That sort of music is rare. To get there one cannot think of terms of mistakes, just experiments. The music world could benefit from more experiments, but of course that requires a curious and understanding audience.

The jazz and the classical stages are worlds probably more different them I can comprehend, and it made me appreciate even more what I heard in Oslo. The improvising project that conductor Geir Lysne and Michael Wollny explore together with the Norwegian Wind Ensemble should attract greater interest.


Away from his more experimental work Michael Wollny is part of the popular jazz ‘supergroup’ 4 Wheel Drive, led by trombonist and vocalist Nils Landgren and featuring bassist Lars Danielsson (another favourite of mine) and drummer Wolfgang Haffner.

This supergroup has been on top of the German charts. I actually like this quartet, and they seem to have fun paying together - but it’s definitely what the mainstream jazz audience likes.


I have been at home since January. I meet few people and I have been holding social distance and so as far as I know I have not had Covid 19. You have probably read about the Swedish voluntary lockdown. It’ s all about personal responsibility in a collective way. It seems to be working, without the hardship of an official lockdown. Stockholm has most of the cases, and I have a couple of friends in hospital, in their thirties, but still affected. So it’s important to stay safe!

The Swedish culture sector is in shock like everywhere else. Friends in the culture businesses are trying to avoid bankruptcy. The ones that work for cultural institutions feel more secure, but there is desperation. Suddenly it’s apparently how important the audience is for the arts!

On International Jazz I have been listening to hours of co-ordinated live streaming of Swedish jazz Day. A “tour de force” for the Swedish Jazz Association and many jazz organizers and jazz clubs around the country. Great project! Even got a review in the morning paper.

But it is evident that the jazz musicians miss the audience response in this streaming situation - the lack of applause and spontaneous reactions affects the playing and it can feel awkward.

Almost every day, especially days when I feel low, I tune in to Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala’s social
media, Facebook or Instagram, about 18.00 pm (19.00 pm UK time). He is a funny guy and plays short tunes and his charming partner Lotta Kuusisto reads poetry. They have been doing this since the Finnish lockdown. This collective and digital experience is comforting, even when the poems
sometimes are in Finnish, which I do not understand. But it does not matter, for it lets me participate, and we sort of come together and that feels good!

Let us stay safe and enjoy the music!

Mariana Vodovosoff,
Stockholm, Sweden,
April / May 2020.


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