They just don’t make records like this anymore – and for good reason. The boundaries between mainstream, experimental, parody, recreation and reverence have become so elevated that creating a well-played swinging session without a secondary agenda has become practically anathema. Luckily, this sextet of Berlin-based improvisers ignores the strictures to produce this piece of Paradise.
Anachronistic and advanced at the same time, the 14 selections played by the CVDG Project relate most closely to the sophisticated strain of arranged modern Jazz crafted on both sides of the US in the mid-1950s before being swept away by the Hard Bop verses Cool Jazz wars. Composer/arrangers like Jimmy Giuffre, Gil Melle, Gigi Gryce and Benny Golson weren’t afraid to abstain from the cult of the soloist to let individual expression flow naturally from gnomic compositions. And all this was done without neglecting bedrock, Count Basie-ish swing.
Bremen-born pianist, teacher and painter Christian von der Goltz, who composed the bulk of the material understands this. So do the other band members, trumpeter/tenor horn player Martin Klingeberg and alto saxophonist Henrik Walsdorff, part of Ulrich Gumpert’s Worksop bands; bassist Jan Roder and drummer Kay Luebke who have backed up Silke Eberhard; and bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall, featured in innumerable bands, including Die Enttäuschung. The majority of pieces here work with an internal logic that mates comfort with creativity. In fact, even if a composition has been constructed in a cerebral manner, like comic relief in a serious film, traces of an unashamed groove remain. On “Zucks Delight” for instance, the pianist continues spinning out the swinging melody even as the accompaniment accelerates. Von der Goltz’s “Congo Sleepwalk”, which could be an erudite variation on a classic train Blues, featuring dot-dash-like riffs from Klingeberg to contrast with Mahall’s fluid spills as the pianist limns the tremolo theme. Additionally while tunes such as “Marche funèbre” may move past a Sicilian funeral dirge to one in New Orleans, featuring the drummer’s two-beat ending; and “Bonk Da Monk”, may lope, lurch and leap like a 1950s California distillation of the Thelonious Monk oeuvre; emotion remains paramount. Most prominently the blood pumping passion arrives courtesy of Walsdorff, who wafts out wide swathes of reed real estate. Throughout, he sounds like an amalgam of Pete Brown and Johnny Hodges at their most florid without losing his modernist bite.
This view of Paradise isn’t the future of Jazz or even German improvised music. But with its utilization of past motifs coupled with contemporary thematic elaborations, it should be the sound of modern mainstream music – from any country.
— Ken Waxman
June 24, 2017
Audio Jazz-CD of the Month: Complicated Stories (With No End)
Complicated Stories? This applies more to the process of composing, as the Berlin-based pianist (and jazz educator) Christian von der Goltz describes: “Trying to grasp a melody is about as easy as trying to remember a dream or get hold of a bar of soap in the bathtub.” The result: Some are never finished. This also goes for several of the nine new titles on this CD: Ariadnefaden (Ariadne’s Thread), for instance, designed to lead us out of the labyrinth, could be spun indefinitely; many of the themes seem to have sprung from the moment. The majority are simple, but can’t be hummed to; they’re beautiful, but never kitsch. And diversity triumphs: the soul/blues/rock song Praise exists side by side with magnificently boppy ballads; meditations on infinite space (Milky Way) with drawn-out tone modulations; a waltz in minor plays havoc with step sequence, in contrast with the exuberant and playful variations on a kind of child’s song (Paulie’s Idea).
On the CD cover, the boss’ name is enclosed by Paul Imm (bass) and Heinrich Köbberling (drums). Quite rightly. The three form a unified whole the likes of the Bill Evans Trio, echoes of whose style reverberate in the music. Imm has a lot of space for his melodious soli, which are delicately accompanied on the piano, while his interaction with Köbberling attests to a long musical partnership. Fantastic music, fantastically recorded. Peter Steder, June 2006
Finely Spun Tales
They aren’t at all as “complicated” as the title might lead us to believe—the “stories” Berlin-based pianist Christian von der Goltz tells with his trio. On the contrary, they are sophisticated, intelligent, and finely spun, and sometimes highly complex. And they all have an end.
Ever since his trio debut Sophie Said (Mons Records), the former student of Walter Norris and Kenny Werner has been treating fans of modern lyrical piano jazz of the Bill Evans variety to a new trio CD every three years, all of which have met with high critical acclaim. The Goethe Institute sent the trio on tour through the Baltic States, the Middle East, and to Canada, although von der Goltz is still considered to be an insider tip. While his trio partners have changed over the years, he always plays with highly accomplished instrumentalists prominent on the Berlin and New York jazz scenes. From CD to CD, von der Goltz has allowed himself more and more room for his own compositions.
Complicated Stories (With No End) consists entirely of his own songs; beautiful titles like Ariadnefaden (Ariadne’s Thread), Milchstrasse (Milky Way), and Karusselfahrt(Carousel Ride) offer an initial taste of the music’s character, which oscillates between visually evocative and song-like, develops from the unique and often catchy themes and motifs, savors the melodies, and then plunges them into impressionistically colored harmonies in alternating rhythms, which extend from swing to groove (Praise) to graceful, waltz-like jazz (Karusselfahrt). This calls for sensitive partners and not mere accompaniment, and Paul Imm and Heinrich Köbberling are an excellent choice. They can think their way into the music and know how to bring in their own ideas, both in the ensemble as a whole and as soloists. Berthold Klostermann, April 2006