Apparently there is a new genre in jazz. In any case, the London “Times” just proclaimed it: “Gothic jazz”, which probably has to be translated as “horror jazz”.
However, the dark, mysterious variety of jazz was invented by a German: the pianist Michael Wollny. And it’s no wonder that the Times has already taken notice of his new album. Unlike tennis, there is no world ranking list for jazz pianists, but if there were, Wollny would be among the top three.
The album “Ghosts” is the 17th of the 44-year-old pianist, who was the first German artist to be featured on the cover of the British magazine “Jazzwise”. In international jazz he is considered a genius and yet he is not very well known in this country. His composition is strongly reminiscent of German Romanticism: with every song, every note he actually wants to transport a story, his songs have titles like “Grandmother’s Hammer” or “Dick Laurent is Dead” (a quote from the David Lynch film “Lost Highway”, but who knows without googling it?). And it’s fitting that Wollny’s new trio is now dedicating itself to the uncanny, namely Gothic Jazz. On the album “Ghosts” every song tells a horror story – without words; only with bass, drums and piano.
One can forget space and time: Actually, it is at least controversial whether instrumental music can tell anything concrete at all. As early as 1830, the composer Hector Berlioz claimed that his “Symphonie fantastique” reported on how someone watches a woman at a ball or has to live through a witches’ sabbath in a nightmare. But if you don’t know what is meant when listening, you may only hear tones. On the Wollny trio’s album, one track is called “Hauntology”, the science of being scared, so to speak. The piano begins with a middle register ostinato, a repetitive odd figure that doesn’t like to decide between three keys. That screwed itself into the ear, played with a lot of pedals. The sound is getting broader, the bass seems distorted, you lose yourself in the sound. Scary or not? matter of opinion. In any case, it’s “flow jazz”, to invent another genre that hasn’t existed before. Everything flows, the instruments intertwine like hands in love, you can forget space and time as if on a trip.
This is also because you hear three world-class musicians here. American electric bassist Tim Lefebvre played on Black Star, David Bowie’s last album. And then he wanted to work with Wollny, “Ghosts” is their second album together. Frankfurt drummer Eric Schaefer has been playing with Wollny for almost 20 years, and their careers began with their 2005 record “Call it [Em]”. Schaefer drums sometimes lightly and quietly, sometimes eruptively, but always precisely like a machine, he always pulls the music a little further forward. After each pursuing different projects for years, Wollny and Schaefer see each other more often today, as both are professors of jazz in their respective fields at the Leipzig University of Music.