Frederik Köster Quartett: Zeichen der Zeit: Release Information
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Release Date: 20.03.2009
TT Catalogue No: 4522
Frederik Köster Quartett – Zeichen der Zeit (Sign of the Times)
What other jazz musician would have dared to title a record like this right after the turn of the millenium? Once a platfom for the very epitome of musical innovation, jazz has been lagging farther and farther behind reality in recent years, sometimes even seeming to be moving in the opposite direction. Especially the German scene has, for the most part, been content with simply copying their American heroes, or settling into the typical pan-European introspection. Only a few musicians like Michael Wollny, Nils Wogram, Eric Schaefer, Carsten Daerr or Arne Jansen have had the courage to beat their own paths through jazzland, and this league of the young and briilliant now welcomes trumpeter Frederik Köster from Cologne.
The first notes of the title track opening the CD already make it unmistakeably clear: it’s not about cozy red-wine intellectuality here, nor is it about the dutiful parroting of the canons of jazz. A hard rock guitar slams into a jazz trumpet at a hard angle and sets entire bunches of electronic effects free. A little later a guitar solo spirals up above dense grooves into the clear heights of an alternative rock firmament, only to be promptly swallowed up by the trumpet. The music is full of breathtaking breaks, mood changes, and tricky shifts of stylistic paradigms. One thing only unites all the phases of these different movements in musical landscapes – the untamed lust for playfully unfurling the moment. Köster is however, not only setting a sign of the times, he’s also a child of the present. „Most of the jazz musicians of my generation didn’t grow up with jazz at all, but with other music“, he comments on his rich menu. „With me, jazz mixes with alternative rock and pop – stuff that’s kind of out on a limb. As a teenager I listened to rock, when I was 20 I turned to jazz exclusively for two years, but at one point I realized that the music of my teenage years had really formed me somehow. I wanted to combine this experience with what I had learned in my jazz studies.“
It’s not only musical moments that are culminating here however. Köster knows how to make the stress and hectic of today just as palpable as the longing for peace and relaxation. He doesn’t even have to deny the jazz tradition in order to enrich it with the interplay between everyday observations and needs, and he doesn’t require anything more from his listeners than a readiness to listen, and to let themselves go in the music. His collisions and atmospheres are of course the result of musical syntheses, but the conventional fusion philosophy that still rules interdisciplinary jazz, he has left far behind. „Our music, in spite of melting so many style elements together, shouldn’t sound electronic, but organic“, he emphasizes. „We do use a lot of effects, but avoid a synthetic sound that puts a blanket over everything that is natural. Of course we play a fusion of different styles, but the term „fusion“ doesn‘t really mean anything to us. It sounds too much like the 80’s. I feel a stronger connection to the music of the 60’s and the 90’s.“
With this, Köster takes his place in the front line of innovative jazz stylists of the past and future, because the greats of jazz – no namedropping here – have always cheated a little on the respective jazz traditions of their day, finding a juncture between the immense achievements of the genre and their own spirit of the time. Of course the sound you hear on „Sign of the Times“ didn’t come about overnight. Köster, guitarist Tobias Hoffmann, bassist Robert Landfermann and drummer Ralf Gessler have been working together intensively for five years. „On our first CD „Constantly Moving“ we used songs from a time span of five years. You can hear exactly which song is the oldest and which one is the newest, and you can follow the development in between. The new album represents our current state of development. We started as a groove band, but at some point that was just too dull. I wanted to bring more depth to the music, so we incorporated effects, and our roots in alternative rock music. The result is the music you hear today.
The Frederik Köster Quartett improvises, but deals with improvisation quite differently than what we know from the vast majority of jazz groups. Improvisation doesn’t mean the spontaneous paraphrasing of notes and scales here, but much more the expression of creativity with tone colors and sounds. „We work a lot with spaces and atmospheres“, says Köster. „Sure, scales and chords are important, but compared to the last album, we have become much simpler in our structures to make room for these spaces and atmospheres. The impressionistic side of the music has always been very important to me. Just closing your eyes and letting the music work on you.“
Until now, the spectrum of German jazz trumpet outside the world of free jazz
was considered to be pegged out between Till Brönner and Nils Wülker.
Köster brings a completely new dimension to the field; his commitment
to musical complexity is what is really striking thereby.
Which doesn’t mean that Köster doesn’t have a thrilling sound. It’s not seldom that his listeners have a hard time deciding whether he sounds sharp as a knife or soft as butter at one and the same moment. So many perceptions reverberate in his sound that you can hardly name them all. He doesn‘t have to resort to electronic manipulations to call up an incredible fundus of timbres either. By instinctively adapting his sound to the respective atmosphere, he remains completely unpredictable in every moment of his playing. Especially with guitarist Tobias Hoffmann, he melts into a musical symbiosis that reminds you of Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays, or Nils Petter Molvaer and Eivind Aarset. In spite of its name, the Frederik Köster Quartet is a firmly established unit that lives not only from the musical achievements of the four involved, but above all from the almost conspiratorial single-mindedness of these four human beings in the group. Four musicians who have a lot to say to each other, and who like relating these stories to their listeners.
Whether „Sign of the Times“ sounds like jazz or not is something listeners can determine according to their own preferences. The Frederik Köster Quartett is all about pure, universal communication in the world of today. Music for the moment, with an aspiration to eternity. The short word for it is – jazz.