Lisbeth Quartett: Constant Travellers: Release Information
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Release Date: 28.10.2011
TT Catalogue No: 4562
Higher, faster, further. Yes, for some odd reason that’s what many believe about jazz: Like a traveling salesman, it has to be fast-paced, urbane, and noncommittal. Hyperbolic virtuosity often seems more decisive than sustainability, a dazzling concept more important than humility.
All the more surprising then to be confronted with the likes of Berlin’s Lisbeth Quartett, which was founded by saxophonist Charlotte Greve. Three of the four musicians are in their early twenties, but when you hear their music, you might think you are listening to a troop of old souls who are total strangers to any sense of false hectic fever.
But make no mistake: Their music is nothing if not modern. They thrive on the grooves and compositional principles of contemporary jazz, but the melodies and solos display a sovereignty and quiet curiosity that has nothing in common with the hectic and low-budget mentality of the times we live in. Greve, pianist Manuel Schmiedel, bassist Marc Muellbauer, and drummer Moritz Baumgärtner are old-school travellers. Deliberate, alert, and always in the moment – seekers keeping their distance from the well-beaten tourist path of improvised music.
That’s why The Lisbeth Quartett is also a godsend for German jazz. Four instrumentalists have joined forces to let each other be, and to encourage and complete one another. Very different experiences merge together in the talents of the musicians who support the award-winning bandleader. Manuel Schmiedel is one of the most sought-after pianists in the Berlin scene and is currently collaborating with American guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel; the equally busy drummer Moritz Baumgärtner is active outside of the jazz scene, playing in indie rock and electro bands with members of the influential group The Notwist; and finally Marc Muellbauer, doubtless one of the most important bass players in Germany, counts playing with The Julia Hülsmann Trio among his list of accomplishments.
The Lisbeth Quartett’s debut CD “Grow,” which was released in 2009 as part of the renowned Next Generation Series co-produced by the magazine Jazz Thing and the Double Moon label, earned the band a great deal of much-deserved attention. Clarinetist Claudio Puntin praised the “natural, contagious power” of the bandleader’s musicianship, saxophonist David Binney attested that her ballad interpretation was wise beyond her years. On the heals of the CD release came concerts at Dublin’s 12 Points Festival, Burghausen’s Jazz Week, European Jazz Meeting in Berlin, and the JazzBaltica Festival in Salzau, where saxophonist Greve was presented with the JazzBaltica Most Promising Newcomer Award for 2010.
The new album “Constant Travellers,” released with the Traumton label, signifies the organic evolution of the potential exemplified in “Grow.” Indeed, the quartet has grown, become more open. The four instrumentalists have embarked on an expedition to music’s very source, to melody. They have set off on a path like the one taken by fellow explorers such as Lee Konitz, Bill Evans, Charlie Haden, and Paul Motian, but they have ended up in a completely different place.
The suite-like title piece, “Constant Travellers,” provides the best example. The inherently simple theme is passed carefully from one musician to the next, resulting in a sort of skewed canon that sounds like a cross between Bach fugue and Ornette Coleman harmolodics. With a calm, glowing intensity the band plays itself into a veritable frenzy – only to perform a slow-motion dissection of the piece’s motif in the second, balladesque part of “Constant Travellers.” This suite embodies all the essential qualities of The Lisbeth Quartett: Extraordinary concentration, dexterity that is never an end in itself, a playful shrewdness that denies any hint of pathos.