Frederik Köster / Die Verwandlung: Homeward Bound Suite: Release Information
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Release Date: 12.01.2018
TT Catalogue No: 4657
Frederik Köster - Homeward Bound Suite
Since their debut about five years ago, we all know that Frederik Köster’s band Die Verwandlung [The Metamorphosis] lives up to its name. In September 2015 they released the outstanding, widely acclaimed album Tension/Release. At NDR [Northern German Broadcasting] it was the CD of the week, and they called it “confidently and surely at the center of contemporary jazz. Best of ‘Made in Germany’.” Werner Stiefele states in Stereoplay: “A highlight of chamber musical jazz.” Most recently the quartet of award winners (Köster, Sternal und Burgwinkel have all received Jazz-Echo awards, in addition Köster was given the Neue Deutsche Jazzpreis and the WDR-Jazzpreis) fascinated their audiences on festival stages with surprising twists in timbre and groove. Lately the stylistic range even incorporates Arab influences. However, still nobody expected that Köster and Die Verwandlung would present a production with a classical orchestra next. With this, the widely traveled quartet from Cologne moves into a terrain that is explored comparatively seldom, even in international context. Coherently uniting a jazz combo with Classically trained string players is about as easy as creating new dishes with well-balanced flavors from French and Asian cuisine. With his Homeward Bound Suite Frederik Köster proves that it is possible.
“I grew up with large ensembles,” the musician born in 1977 explains, “I wrote my first big band arrangements at the age of 14.” Prior to that he played with the brass orchestra of his hometown, later Köster studied trumpet, composition and arrangement in Cologne. Since then he has worked with Albert Mangelsdorff, Randy Brecker, Ack van Royen, Lalo Schifrin, Trilok Gurtu, Nils Petter Molvaer, Biréli Lagrène & WDR Bigband and has composed for various orchestras. Nine years ago he released a big band CD under the name Frederik Köster Jazz Orchestra. “To work with a classical orchestra, has been on my wish list for a long time,” Köster says; a logistically and financially ambitious undertaking. Eventually the annual festival “Sauerland Herbst” came to his aid. Over the timespan of two decades Köster has played there sporadically; already in earlier years the promoter had initiated collaborations with the Hagen Philharmonic Orchestra and other soloists. In the season of 2016/17 the circle was closed.
“It was important to me to compose something new,” Frederik Köster describes the starting point of the collaboration. “I was always a fan of program music, for instance Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. While I was writing the music of the suite, I thought of my old homeland and the scenery of the Hochsauerland.” So almost inevitably, there is a touch of melancholy in the leitmotif of the Homeward Bound Suite. But that is only one of the many facets of this atmospheric, at times suggestive suite. Köster avoids direct musical quotes, say from the traditional music of the region. Instead, in the piece “Land der 1000 Berge” [Land of a Thousand Mountains] he illustrates the Ruhr River winding there, with piano and strings in the style of Smetana’s Moldau associations, to then strive to the peak with more and more brightly gleaming trumpet and surging orchestration. The multilayered track “Wurzeln und Flügel” [Roots and Wings] refers to the great poet Goethe and begins with brass, as a synonym for Köster’s roots. Through a string passage the composition transitions into a shimmering trumpet solo, which then shifts the emphasis more towards the quartet. A distinctive rhythmic riff also played by the orchestra characterizes the further course of the piece, over which Burgwinkel plays soloistic kicks and accents. “Homeward Bound” gives Sebastian Sternal room to shine as a pianist; in “Kyrill” Köster melodiously and dynamically reflects on the storm of the same name, which left behind profound traces in nature. With almost 12 minutes it is the longest, most complex and edgiest piece of the suite. There is an Olivier-Messiaen-mode and an unconventional double bass solo by Joscha Oetz interwoven in this track. Furthermore, there are rhythmically accentuated, suggestive and onomatopoeic passages, which lead to an almost cacophonous crescendo.
The first preliminary talks for this project took place more than two and a half years ago. Already during his work on the first sketches, Köster developed clear conceptions of instrumentation. Besides the mentioned inspirations, painters of tonal color like Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky crossed his mind, as well as soundtrack composers. “I wanted to write something that was all in all relatively harmonious compared to the music of Die Verwandlung,” Köster explains, “it can sound a little bit monumental in some moments, but never broad or even pompous.” For two months Frederik Köster worked on nuances and extensive notation. “Of course the 60 musicians of the orchestra are less flexible than Die Verwandlung, so everything has to be meticulously specified. In addition, we have different views of rhythm, timing and phrasing.” For the details of formulation, Köster sought advice from his longtime musical partner Sebastian Sternal, who has proven to be a brilliant arranger with his manifold prizewinning Sternal Symphonic Society.
For the Hagen Philharmonic Orchestra, founded in 1907, this was by no means the first border-crossing cooperation. In the season of 2011/2012 they worked with Jon Lord, founding member and keyboarder of Deep Purple, who stayed in town for a while as “Composer for Hagen”. During the course of this involvement the philharmonic orchestra developed several projects with the former pioneer of classic rock. Prior to that and afterwards the orchestra played concerts with the rock bands Extrabreit and Luxuslärm, the jazzman Roby Lakatos, with the musical cabaret artist Hans Liberg and with Jochen Malmsheimer. In 2015 the orchestra under musical director Florian Ludwig was awarded the prize “Best Concert Program of the Season” by the DMV (German Music Publisher Association).
The Homeward Bound Suite adds a new, exciting facet to Frederik Köster’s multifarious oeuvre. The trumpeter masterfully unifies the talents of his intuitively interacting, highly musical soloist-quartet with the fullness of the large body of sound. The concerts so far have shown that Köster’s very personal and lively music fascinates beyond the boundaries of generation or taste preference. Especially since it cleverly circumvents all traps that lurk in such a co-operation. There are no stereotypes, just like there is no academic-unwieldy denial of melody to be found. With this album, Frederik Köster can doubtlessly manifest his status as one of the most interesting trumpeters and composers, of his generation at the least.