February 28, 2024

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CD review: Tobias Haug – Awakening – 2023: Video, CD cover

This autumn, Swiss saxophonist Tobias Haug is set to release his latest CD titled “Awakening” on Mons records. Scheduled for release on the 27th of October, this album follows his 2021 outing “Empty Streets”.

On “Awakening”, Tobias presents 9 original compositions, all penned by Haug, and expands the line-up to a quintet setting with the addition of Jakob Bänsch on trumpet. In addition the line-up is further expanded with Renis Mendoza, adding percussion on four of the nine tracks. Also joining Tobias on the album is pianist Simon Seidl, bassist Caris Hermes and rounding out the line-up is drummer Felix Ambach.

When speaking about the reason for moving to a quintet setting Tobias mentioned “After the quartet album I was looking for a change. I no longer wanted to be a one man horn section, I wanted another player up front that I could interact with and try out different voicings.” The choice of Jakob Bänsch, without doubt one of the young and up-coming players on the German scene, was easily made, Tobias had first met him when he was seventeen. When Tobias first started considering players for the project, Bänsch was the first choice. Tobias commented “I love his playing so much that I knew I just wanted to form a band with him.” Also new to the line-up is pianist Simon Seidl, “It’s actually the same thing with Simon”, continued Tobias. “I also heard him play a few years ago at a concert and knew that I had to ask him to join. I knew with these players I had the perfect group for the new direction I wanted to take the album.”

Speaking of direction, while this album is stylistically grounded in the tradition as was his previous album, Tobias has incorporated a wider set of influences within the compositions on this album. “I think for this album I’m drawing from a wider pallet of influences, for years I was heavily influenced by the great be-bop players but on this album I feel there is a broader spectrum, perhaps you could say more modern. I’d been listening to a lot of other music and I think you can hear this in these compositions, in fact, a few of these tunes were inspired by the music of Bela Bartok and Erik Satie.”

The album opens with the track “Vibes in the Neighbourhood”. Sporting an ominous intro, this track invokes a dark and moody feeling invoking the harmonic world of Bartok. The track finally opens up to present an intriguing harmonic backdrop for Haug to explore the full range of his instrument. The following piece changes the atmosphere to a lighter Brazilian feel. Titled “Samba Rumantsch” this track, inspired by the beautiful landscapes found in the Eastern Alps of Switzerland, features Jakob Bänsch on flugelhorn and introduces special guest Renis Mendoza, who spontaneously improvised some lyrics during his percussion solo.

“Awakening” is a fast moving swinger that Tobias states is “how I feel on a good day”. The intro represents the awakening and the process of getting ready before plunging head first into the traffic. On this track both Haug and Bänsch trade passages in a form of chase chorus before handing off to pianist Simon Seidl for an extended solo. Tobias notes that “It gets wild and hectic” and that it does.

Slowing down the proceeding’s is “Red Light” that, as the name suggests, invokes the feeling of a fiery sunset. Of note here is Jakob Bänsch’s stunning solo that confirms his status as one of the most promising players on the German jazz scene. Inspired by the three piano compositions “Gymnopédies”, written by French composer and pianist Erik Satie, “In the Moment” is a ballad that fully features the lyrical nature of Haug’s alto playing. Opposing this, the following track “Roast” once again picks up the pace for a fast moving minor blues.

On this album Tobias expands his instrumental arsenal, adding flute and soprano to the mix. The first of these can be heard on the following track “Montalin”, that not only opens with a solo flute introduction but features the instrument prominently throughout the arrangement. In the albums liner notes Tobias states “It is no secret that we have to make some fundamental changes on this planet. The clock is ticking and we have to act.” This sense of urgency is front and centre in the following track, aptly titled “Time Runs Out”. This up-tempo swinger features a frantic alto solo and a truly impressive trumpet solo highlighting the virtuosity of these young players.

Closing out the album is “Sunny Dream” that is titled after Tobias’ favourite summer cocktail.

Reminiscent of the seventies classic calypso tunes this track sees Tobias turn to the soprano sax for this light hearted tune. In his own words “We hope you get some summer vibes out of it!”

There are so many good memories from our blowing session in Cologne. I think everyone can hear the joy and the happiness in our music. Each musician has done a great job at the recording session and I’m very thankful to all the band members who put so much energy and love into the music. It’s an honor to play my own music with such talented musicians and also very close friends. Beside the good energy, I also really like the diversity and the different moods in the pieces. Every tune has its own little story and I think we did find the right mood for each tune. But the main point is, if I listen to the album, it makes me happy! I hope the listener feels the same way! The Quintet is my current working band, so it was kind of given to record with those people. The only little surprise is our percussionist “Renis Mendoza” who is not a fix band member. But I don’t know any other person with his spirit and energy (listen to Samba Rumantsch!). So, that was the best decision to add him on our recording session and he also joined the band for a few concerts,- an interview with me said Tobias Haug.

We definitely recommend having this CD. By the way, you can buy it right here.

Buy from here – New CD 2023

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