Achim Kaufmann: Solo as active as in various projects: Video, Photo

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Pianist Achim Kaufmann is one of the greatest in his field. The album “Disenjambment” by his trio Grünen helps over the concert break.

Musicians, consciously or unconsciously, think in music. It has structures, follows rules that can be narrower or broader, there are forms such as sentences or phrases. Which raises the question of how music and language relate to each other. In the end, is music a language?

People like to say that musicians have developed a certain “sound language”. What is understandable on the one hand, music has rhythm, there is also something like intonation. In general, there is much that the music combines in its sound, in almost identical form in the language. Conversely, there is talk of things like “speech melody”.

Nevertheless, the question cannot be answered so clearly. Especially since you can hardly order a beer or formulate messages with music alone. Provisionally, one could say that music is structured like a language.

The pianist Achim Kaufmann has a very differentiated view on this question. He agrees that music is “not a clear means of communication for content and meanings”. On the other hand, he opposes: “However, this does not mean that there cannot also be concrete messages and signals in music that – at least in a specific cultural context – can be generally understood.” In this way, music “for certain ideas, images, Emotions, impulses are also the more suitable medium (the more suitable language) than ‘language’ ”.

Kaufmann has developed a similarly differentiated approach to his instrument. His music, which one can confidently call jazz, moves hair-thin between composition and improvisation. No non-binding friendliness to the background sound of discrete bars. But a lot of density, some friction and a lot of sense for the open. For him, the appeal of making music is “ambiguity”.

Solo as active as in various projects

In the 1980s Kaufmann studied in Cologne with pianists Frank Wunsch and Rainer Brüninghaus. He then lived in Amsterdam and moved to Berlin a good ten years ago. He works a lot solo, but also plays and played in different groups. Among his current projects is the trio Grünen founded in 2009 with bassist Robert Landfermann and drummer Christian Lillinger. “Disenjambment” is the title of her second album released this year. Which brings you back to the question of language.

Because “Enjambement” is a stylistic device of poetry. It denotes an interlace, which usually comes about because a sentence unit is longer than the end of the verse: “Just wait! Balde / rest you too ”, to take a famous example (Goethe). In the “Disenjambment”, after which the record is named, not only is an “e” in the middle missing, it leaves you at a loss as to how to understand the prefix “Dis”, which usually stands for negation.

Is it about the negative interlacing, i.e. measurement as usual? What would result in fine nonsense? Or, quite differently, is the “dis” meant musically, as the tone dis where you land when you move a semitone up from the d? So an interlace, of whatever kind, in which the dis plays a decisive role?

Through unknown terrain

No matter which option you prefer, you end up with a word game in which Kaufmann reveals an intellectually playful and playful approach to making music: Despite the rigor of the execution, in which the trio Greens navigates through unknown terrain at the highest level as a matter of course, there is always to hear something easy to move and enjoy the unknown. At the beginning of a piece, you never know what kind of developments you will encounter on the way. There are many unexpected ones.

Greens is a kind of chamber jazz summit, all three involved are on eye level in the most demanding “conversation” with each other. You can find this way of listening to each other academically, but this is mainly true nominally: two of the three musicians are professors at a music academy, businessman since 2018, Landfermann since 2019.

“Academic” in this recording certainly does not mean anemic, but lightning-fast reaction, fine spinning out ideas – and an interplay in which it is not always clear what is free and what has been achieved according to grades. Both are energetic when in doubt. The unpredictability has nothing to do with irregularity.

For greens, rules are not instructions for action that restrict one’s own freedom of movement, but conversely the underlying abstract principles that enable their spontaneous, structured freedom in all conceivable directions. Rhythmic, harmonic, melodic and tonal. And that not everything sounds harmonious sometimes happens in jazz. After all, “together” does not necessarily mean “unison” or “.

Ein Mann mit Brille sitzt lächelnd am Klavier.

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