June 19, 2024

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CD review: Paul Bernewitz – Someday 2022: Video, CD cover

Born in 1997 into a family of musicians in Leipzig, Paul Bernewitz began playing the classical piano at the age of five. Listening to CDs aroused his interest in jazz at an early age, after which he taught himself the basics and devoted a lot of time to improvising and composing his first compositions.

During his many years as a member of the Thomanerchor Leipzig, he gained his first band experience and composed for his own trio there. At 15 he received his first jazz piano lessons from Prof. Ralf Schrabbe, followed by lessons from Michael Wollny, Phillip Frischkorn and Sebastian Sternal, among others, and a master class from Aaron Goldberg.

In addition to “Jugend jazzt”, where he won 1st and 2nd prize in 2014, he received a sponsorship award for “Jugend komponiert” in 2018, which enabled him to take part in the composition workshop of the Jeunesses Musicales at Weikersheim Castle. After studying piano and musicology for a few semesters in Dresden and Leipzig, he switched to the Nuremberg University of Music, where he is currently studying jazz piano for a bachelor’s degree with Prof. Rainer Böhm.

His compositions, which move at the interface of new music and jazz, include 60 piano miniatures, art songs, chorales, chamber music and, above all, arrangements of standards for jazz quartets/quintets. So far he has recorded a solo album with his piano miniatures and a duo album with Emil Wahlgren (voc). A first band album with his Nuremberg quartet is planned for 2022.

“I Hear a Rhapsody” – Eight rhapsodic parcours. Can songs from the Great American Songbook that were released 50 to 80 years ago still inspire us today? Listening to Paul Bernewitz’s emotional debut album we know: yes, they can!

Paul Bernewitz’s arrangements create a new genre. They are not merely “arrangements” – as so many versions of “Someday My Prince Will Come” and other world-famous songs – but new narratives, continuations, little coal mines, parcours: struggling for free space where the pre-determined is running its course, and yearning for something valid where emptiness and irrelevance are gaining the upper hand.

Paul Bernewitz has assembled a band in Nuremberg in 2020 that brings together up-and-coming individuals from the southern German jazz scene to bring his music to life. With the poetically chiseling drummer Jonas Sorgenfrei, the wide-awake bassist Amelie-Marie Richarz, the agile saxophonists Paul Scheugenpflug and Michael Reiß and the charismatic singer Regina Heiß, he assembles excellent artists by his side. The ensemble grows together musically without it “getting sticky” – hence the transparent, many-limbed sound. They remain, although all part of the grand narrative, on their coordinates to tell about their perspectives. The band demands, compels, but also quickly returns to its orbit, seeking its vibe there: A good storyteller does not impose.

The joy of playing is paired with an astonishing maturity and depth of statement. Everything seems rooted in the insight of wanting to reflect ambivalences in the music. The result is a subtly probing, often urgent, brooding flow – pure anti-kitsch. Contemporary jazz can also sound like this.

Where is this album suddenly coming from? Who is Paul Bernewitz? – People like him do not often exist. His creativity is boundless. The 25-year-old not only arranges for bands, he writes poetry, art songs, chamber music, choral works and even edits a literary magazine. – Coming from a family of musicians, he enjoyed a first-class musical education in the ranks of the St. Thomas Boys Choir of Leipzig, where he also sang as a soloist. Early on, while learning classical piano literature, he felt the desire to write his own music. Inborn in him: the love of improvisation.

Since the age of 18, Paul Bernewitz has written over 60 piano miniatures. In these studies, which are like landmarks for him, his sound ideal is already stored like a broth cube. Many other circumstances and mentors favored the maturing of his unique pianistic sound culture. This sound culture is characterized by harmonic complexity, intense songfulness and a breathtaking intimacy. There is something unconditional, compelling and at the same time immensely vulnerable in it, which touches us in our innermost being. When we hear him play, we never hear just “jazz” – we hear Paul Bernewitz.

SOMEDAY is the remarkable result of a long exploration. This collection of reworked standards, often completely reinterpreted in their character, is an alternating bath of epic through-composition and musical space; a journey on which we need not fear to get lost – the pliable melodies remain our guide. Impressive is the degree of creativity, the variety of details, the pleasure in variation, condensation, as well as the pleasure in reduction, meandering along narrow lanes and stumbling over obstacles, such as the effect of the “hanging record” composed in “Take Seven” or the figure skating-like melodic paradoxes in “Someday My Prince Will Come”…

Nobody knows Paul Bernewitz yet. But all signs are pointing towards it: The jazz scene will have to remember this name. In addition to his musical activities, he writes poems and founded a literary magazine for poems and short prose (“Literarische Blatter”) in 2019, which appears monthly and which he still manages and publishes today.

I love most the courage to play long musical arcs which result from the rhapsodic approach. Someday was written over many years. In the fall of 2019, I wrote the first arrangements. Already then I looked for musicians, with whom I then recorded in January 2020 in the recording studio of the Nuremberg University of Music. We were a studio band, only. In the lockdown from March 2020, I worked out all the missing pieces. Originally we wanted to go into the studio again in May 2020, then in December 2020. In the end it became May 2021. Covid-19 always got in the way and threw all the plans out the window. Parallel to the album, I was composing. I came up with a hundred ideas for new projects. Now I can devote myself to these ideas. At the moment I am planning a solo album. I always wanted to have the best people, the ones with the most ambition and around my age. So I looked around Nuremberg and picked out the best among my fellow students. Not all of them had time, but in the end it became a good band that grew together piece by piece into a sound body. With Jonas, for example, I was already able to play my entrance exam in Nuremberg. Along with Eva Klesse and Moritz Baumgärtner, Jonas Sorgenfrei is probably one of the few drummers on the German scene whom I admire without reservation. As a pianist, you feel safe: like you, he plays melodies,- an interview with me said Paul Bernewitz.

We recommend that you definitely own this CD of this wonderful young and up-and-coming musician, because later you can brag that you got it in time.

1 Take Seven (Take Five) (10:51)
2 I Hear a Rhapsody (7:25)
3 Alfie (5:57)
4 Someday My Prince Will Come (6:14)
5 It Ain’t Necessarily So (5:50)
6 Lady Bird (10:05)
7 Cherokee (5:35)
8 Days of Wine and Roses (10:39)

Paul Bernewitz – piano & arrang
Amelie-Marie Richarz – bass
Jonas Sorgenfrei – drums
Paul Scheugenpflug – sopran- & alt-sax
Michael Reiß – tenor-sax
Regina Heiß – voc

New CD – 2022 – Buy from here

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