Tobias Preisig: In Transit: Release Information
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Release Date: 30.03.2011
TT Catalogue No: 4567
It's a transit on the inside;
A lot has already been written about the special qualities of improvised music and about how it allows for “more” intensity as compared to fixed compositions that have to be interpreted as faithfully to the original as possible. “It’s about being able to let loose”, Tobias Preisig explains. “To reach a different level, where music happens all by itself. That’s the goal of our band – in a way it’s spiritual, but it has nothing to do with religion.”
Whoever listens to Preisig’s new album “In Transit” doesn’t need any other explanation: The introductory titles “Infinite Inhale” and “Infinite Exhale” are pure intensity, tangible energy. This music isn’t just philosophising about existential basics, it’s literally about them. Breath, for example. “How do we get the music to sing, as in breathing, how do we get it to have of life of its own?”
Tobias Preisig is more than familiar with a classical, virtuoso repertoire: As a seven year-old, he already knew that he wanted to play the violin. His parents promptly signed him up for lessons that ultimately led to his studies at the University of Music and Theatre in his hometown Zurich. But early on he went his own way: At a workshop of the youth orchestra, Preisig was invited to join the big band. “I was hooked”. He came in contact with the Swiss jazz scene and studied at the Swiss Jazz School as well as the New School in Manhattan. In 2003, he went on tour with the European Youth Jazz Orchestra and after a half year’s residency in Paris, collaborations followed with Luciano Biondini, Daniel Schnyder, Thomas Demenga, the Kaleidoscope String Quartet and duos with George Gruntz (their current album “Little Horse – Ho!” was released in 2010 with the guest saxophone player Dave Liebman) and the vocal artist Christian Zehnder. In the spring of 2010, “Flowing Mood”, the debut album of his own quartet, was released on the New York label ObliqSound. “I waited a long time until my music had matured and I had found the right musicians who spoke the same language and who wanted to move in the same individual and new direction.”
The quartet (Stefan Aeby, Piano, André Pousaz and Michi Sulz) has since grown together, working on a regular basis; touring Switzerland, France and Germany, playing at festivals such as the Cully Jazz Festival, Hamburg’s Überjazz, Basel’s Offbeat and opening the Jazz Festival Schaffhausen in 2011. “The title of our second CD can be interpreted as: We are currently in a transit zone where we will likely never arrive anywhere because we are constantly searching.”
Pieces like “Charming Sophistication”- the title is no coincidence - demonstrate at what level the four musicians are now interacting. Delicate accents from the drums, bass and prepared piano intertwine to form a restrained and yet dramatic groove, organically the intensity opens up to joint improvisation. Or the ostinato calm of the trancelike “Intoxicated Wheel”, circles around and entrenches itself ever deeper into open ears and hearts. This music will not leave its listeners untouched.
Tobias Preisig has consistently developed his own sound: warm and dark, one can almost hear a viola under his sensitive bow. The band’s sound, as well, doesn’t slave away at standards and categories but courageously aspires to gentleness, to the poetic, sometimes even melancholy, thereby allowing for a “death march” that neither slips into tentative metaphysical nor touchingly sentimental kitsch. In Mexico, as a thirty year-old, Preisig found a skeleton playing a violin – not the admonishing “Memento Mori”, but rather the local “Day of the Dead” symbol for teeming life. “In Transit” is also a metaphor for the entire bandwidth of our existence, from breathing in and out, to manifold “transforming”, reaching to the sacred violence of love that lasts until death.
At the centre of the album, an ambiguous cover version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” unfurls. Whoever suspects that this is an appeal for Christianity is unfamiliar with the classic’s lyrics. Quite the contrary according to Preisig: “I was a captive of Jeff Buckley’s version. It had infested me like a parasite, it wouldn’t let go of me. So I started to engage myself with song. It is an attempt to learn to live with this parasite in a fruitful symbiosis.”
Yet the album “In Transit” also embraces the lighter aspects of life. “We see ‘What an Appearance’ with its 7/4 measure as a brightener, the almost beautifully kitsch melody opens the world up again.” Tobias Preisig doesn’t dictate to anyone how they should understand his music: whether melancholically bluesy or simply rockily intense. He’d prefer not to announce the titles during a concert: “There are two types of people: The kind that get an audio guide first off at a museum and let each painting be explained to them, or the others who first let their impressions sink in and form their own thoughts. I definitely belong to the kind that ignore the audio guides.”
As always with good art, “In Transit” doesn’t require an explanation. This music enthrals its listeners and keeps one’s ears, brain and heart busy. This is a warning to everyone who wants to play it safe. And it’s an invitation to get going “In Transit”.
“Is that jazz? Well, if jazz is music that transcends borders, then
what Tobias Preisig… is doing, is jazzier than a lot of jazzier sounding