Tag Archives: Wanja Slavin

All About Jazz-New York review by Andrey Henkin

G9 Gipfel – Berlin (Jazzwerkstatt)

Drummer Han Bennink, part of the first wave of truly European jazz musicians, felt that he was continuing, albeit indirectly, a rhythmic tradition coming out of the drum corps of countries like Switzerland and Scotland. Other generations have followed, filled with players who used the accomplishments of Bennink, as well as others like Paul Lovens, Pierre Favre, Aldo Romano or Jacques Thollot (to give one example per country), as a template. German drummer Christian Lillinger, 27, who studied with another accomplished European in Günter Baby Sommer, is part of the latest wave, lending his talents to a wide array of projects. Though he is one of nine participants on Berlin, from G9 Gipfel (meaning “peak”), Lillinger’s drumming is crucial in corralling the various personalities involved. Trombonist Gerhard Gschlössl is the nominal leader of this ensemble but players like trumpeter Axel Dörner, saxist Tobias Delius and bass clarinetist Rudi Mahall are quite capable of yanking the leash of their master. Filling out the nonet are alto saxist Wanja Slavin, guitarist John Schröder, bassist Johannes Fink and, in a very rare turn as a sideman, pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, éminence grisé in European jazz since the ‘60s. Only four contribute compositions but these lurch drunkenly from Gschlössl’s proto-bop swingers reminiscent of mid ‘60s Blue Note and Mahall’s rumpled avant excursion to Dörner’s hypercerebral musing and Fink’s kinetic, almost centerless sketches. So Lillinger has to be all kinds of drummers, as in as he is out, changing radically while maintaining his own aesthetic, all of which he does with a range impressive in one so relatively new to the scene.

First Reason is Lillinger’s debut under his own name, though he has previously released albums with the cooperative group Hyperactive Kid and several
other improvised, leaderless sessions. Delius and Slavin are part of the group, buoyed by the double double basses of Jonas Westergaard and Robert
Landfermann. The elder statesman here is pianist Joachim Kühn, one of the few jazz musicians actively working in what was East Germany in the early ‘60s.
Lillinger features as both writer and player on this album, penning 8 of the 11 tunes but, since this is a debut, it has the typical stylistic waywardness that can
make for an uneven listen. All of the tunes are good, especially the Vandermark-ian workout “Patient” but it is often hard to see how they connect, particularly
the ones featuring Kühn, which sound of another era, perhaps the pianist’s time with BYG-Actuel. The most interesting thing about the album is how, despite
having two horns in the frontline, First Reason is really dominated by the two varying approaches of Westergaard and Landfermann in tandem, Lillinger
skittering around them like a child mischievously running between the legs of his parent.

Lillinger’s latest project is a trio session of eight presumably improvised tunes with pianist Achim Kaufmann and bassist Landfermann. One can’t help
but think of archetypes of the free European piano trio:Howard Riley, Wolfgang Dauner, Siegfried Kessler, Joachim Kühn. Snatches of all those come through on
Grünen, a mélange of proto-classical, subversive swing and folksy impudence. Kaufmann is of an earlier generation of European improvisers, about two
decades older than the rhythm section. But do not presume unspoken leadership of this session. As he’s proven in the aforementioned album, his solo disc Null
and quartet outing Nicht Ohne Robert Volume 1 (also with Lillinger), Landfermann is a player firmly following Europe’s also-mighty bassist tradition. And here Lillinger can punctuate, cajole, react, ignore and bring to the fore all of his breadth as a player in an ensemble one-third the size of Berlin and without worrying about bandleading as on First Reason. As he gets older, Lillinger will be able to dominate a session like a Bennink without seemingly trying to but it’s heartening to see that European avant garde keeps attracting new adherents.

Cadence Magazine review by Robert Iannapollo

Christian Lillinger Grund – First Reason (CF 142)
Clean Feed has done a lot of providing recording opportunities for people and groups whose names were hitherto unknown in the area of contemporary Jazz. One example is this release by German drummer Christian Lillinger (3). Lillinger is a new name to me but he leads a unique ensemble with two reeds and two bassists on First Reason, his debut album as a leader. The ensemble is stacked with some first rate players. ICP Orchestra’s Tobias Delius is one of the reed players, Danish bass player Jonas Westergaard is one of the bassists, and a guest on three tracks is veteran pianist Joachim Kuhn who has been a mainstay on the German (and international) Jazz scene since the 1960s. It’s good to hear him mixing it up with these young upstarts. It’s clear that Lillinger is going for something a little different by using this unusual instrumental lineup. There’s some great writing here such as on “Die Enge” where Delius and Slavin are playing an odd static theme as the two bassists ping off each other. The two basses are an integral part of the grounding of this music. At times they play in tandem or contrapuntally but frequently their parts seem to ricochet off each other. The dual bass solo at the beginning of Delius’ “The Heron” (nice to hear an alternate version to the one that was on Delius’ ICP debut disc) is one of the high points of the disc. Delius’ burly tenor is a good contrast to Slavin’s more liquid sounding alto. Lillinger drives this ensemble with a clattering energy (love his drumming on the opener “Pfranz”), that gives this music a distinct character. First Reason is an auspicious debut.
©Cadence Magazine 2010 www.cadencebuilding.com

Temporary Fault review by Massimo Ricci

Apparently, master pianist Joachim Kühn fell in love with drummer and composer Christian Lillinger’s work at a first listen, having had the chance of appreciating his playing at a festival in Ibiza in 2008. He is also the producer of this record, besides lending hands as a performer in three of its eleven pieces. Basically, Grund (=ground in German) is a quintet made of two reedists (Tobias Delius and Wanja Slavin) and two bassists (Jonas Westergaard and Robert Landfermann) in conjunction with the leader. The adjective that immediately springs to mind when listening to this recording is “cerebral”, not necessarily (and not always) in a negative sense. The well-oiled correlations between the parts and the right amount of emancipation thrown in every once in a while contribute to depict a music that sounds sharp but not acrimonious, elements of tradition and scientific analysis of the instrumental relations weighing exactly the same. If the intelligibility of the arrangements is absolute and the procedural democracy shown in all the tunes substantial – contrapuntal friction and thorny melodic linearity both critical ingredients of the recipe – nevertheless there’s a noticeable level of frigidity getting in the way of a thorough enjoyment of the CD, which in essence appears as a fine-sounding rational exercise with a couple of noteworthy moments (such as the superb “Feldarbeit”). Definitely one for the intellect, not for the heart.

Peter Margasak “Best of 2009” list at the Chicago Reader

Best of 2009, Part Three (20th to 11th)

20. Mulatu Astatke & the Heliocentrics, Inspiration Information 3 (Strut)
Veteran Ethiopian composer, keyboardist, vibist, and arranger Mulatu Astatke—whose tunes you’ve heard if you’ve seen Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers—hooks up with avant-garde UK hip-hop/funk crew the Heliocentrics and creates an unexpectedly simpatico hybrid. I’m usually suspicious of calculated cross-generational or cross-stylistic experiments—Inspiration Information 3 is part of a Strut series that’s also paired Tony Allen with Jimi Tenor and Horace Andy with Ashley Beedle—but this one works perfectly. Haunting pentatonic melodies tussle with the kind of grooves Sun Ra might have written if he’d been born six decades later.

19. Vic Chesnutt, At the Cut (Constellation)
Adding another layer to the tragedy of Vic Chesnutt’s suicide is the fact that he’d just released what might be the most powerful album of his career. A combo including Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto and folks from Montreal’s Godspeed/Silver Mt. Zion crowd wrap up his singing in arrangements both tender and harrowing—the opener, “Coward,” is easily the most unsettling rock song I heard all year. “Flirted With You All My Life,” a breakup note to death, stings much worse if you know about Chesnutt’s previous suicide attempts (to say nothing of the one that succeeded), but even if you’re completely ignorant of the details of his troubled life this record can clobber you emotionally.

18. J.D. Allen Trio, Shine! (Sunnyside)
J.D. Allen has been leading a growing reinvestment in the saxophone trio on the New York jazz scene. John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins remain clear points of reference, but this group—with the sturdy rhythm section of bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston—has a no-nonsense concision and lean architecture all its own. Shine! puts the spotlight on some of the most fundamental aspects of jazz—subtle group interaction, focused improvisation, and infectious rhythmic buoyancy.

17. Liam Noble Trio, Brubeck (Basho)
Thanks to the metrical experiments of his ubiquitous landmark album Time Out, pianist Dave Brubeck has long been dismissed by some jazz fans as a square, clunky player, but terrific British pianist Liam Noble flies in the face of that prejudice with this superb homage. Noble is wonderfully flexible, equally at home in free-jazz settings and mainstream contexts, and his scrappy trio manages to be both sincere and revisionist in its precise, energetic interpretations. Nothing here is too outre, and I doubt the music will provoke much reconsideration of Brubeck’s work—but it certainly would be nice if it did.

16. Tinariwen, Imidiwan: Companions (World Village)
The original Tuareg rockers pull back on the power, reverting to the stabbing intensity of their earliest work, which conveys emotion through nuances in its lilting vocals and floating matrix of guitars. Tinariwen’s style of musical hypnosis hasn’t varied much over the years—even the change on Imidiwan is of degree, not of kind—but when a band consistently casts spells like these, who cares?

15. David Sylvian, Manafon (Samadhisound)
For his latest album, veteran art-pop singer David Sylvian surrounded himself with a heavyweight crew of free improvisers and experimentalists—Christian Fennesz, Evan Parker, Otomo Yoshihide, Keith Rowe, Franz Hautzinger, Sachiko M, and John Tilbury among them. Within meticulously calibrated improvised settings he sings his elliptical lyrics with rhapsodic splendor, shaping grandiloquent melodies that contrast radically with the stark, spiky, sometimes even menacing music.

14. Mario Diaz de Leon, Enter Houses Of (Tzadik)
This stunning album by young New York composer Mario Diaz de Leon features members of the International Contemporary Ensemble—a superb new-music collective based here and in New York—who bring crisp, bracing technical rigor to de Leon’s mind-melting pieces, which draw liberally from noise, free improv, and the work of modern composers like Xenakis and Ligeti. He’s fluent enough in the languages of his various influences that his work never sounds like an arbitrary pastiche. In fact in “Mansion” the transitions between pure acoustic sound—the flutes of Claire Chase and Eric Lamb—and lacerating electronic feedback are as organic as they are abrupt. Enter Houses Of portends great possibilities for new “classical” music.

13. A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Délivrance (Leaf)
When American musicians catch a fever for some faraway regional tradition, it usually ends up as a fleeting obsession, but Jeremy Barnes and Heather Trost (aka A Hawk and a Hacksaw) have proved themselves an exception to the rule. They’ve not only stuck with their love for Roma fiddle music, they even relocated to Budapest, Hungary, for a year and a half, where they studied with bona fide practitioners and eventually formed a band with some of them. Lots of great players help out on Délivrance, where Barnes and Trost maintain a distinctly American artsy feel amid the wildly sawing fiddles, sprightly cimbalom (played by the great Kalman Balogh), and pumping accordion. And as they proved at the Empty Bottle in September, they can also pull off a great show without the European ringers.

12. Buika & Chucho, El Ultimo Trago (Warner Music Latino)
Remarkable Spanish producer Javier Limón strikes again, pairing Buika—a powerhouse black flamenco singer from Mallorca—with brilliant Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés for a program of songs made famous by Mexican ranchera icon Chavela Vargas. It might seem like some kind of postmodern bricolage, but everything here sounds utterly natural. Valdés has such an authoritative rhythmic drive that he can’t help but give the whole endeavor an Afro-Cuban feel, but Buika has the kind of smoky, malleable voice that can traverse any style—the music they make together feels almost nonidiomatic.

11. Christian Lillinger’s Grund, First Reason (Clean Feed)
Ubiquitous, flexible German drummer Christian Lillinger has made his first album as a leader, and it’s a knockout—not least because his impressive band includes saxophonist Tobias Delius, bassist Jonas Westergaard, and pianist Joachim Kuhn. Lillinger’s tunes are both distinctive and open enough to allow for potent improvisation and lots of interactions between members, particularly the jabbing exchanges between Delius and horn man Wanja Slavin, and second bassist Robert Landfermann gives the bottom end extra movement and muscle.

Jazzmen review


All About Jazz Italy by Maurizio Comandini

CF 142Christian Lillinger’s Grund –  First Reason (CF 142)

Il giovane batterista tedesco Christian Lillinger si presenta in gran spolvero per questo suo debutto come leader. Rafforza la sezione ritmica con il doppio basso acustico affidato ai bravi Jonas Westergaard e Robert Landfermann, mette nel front-end i saxofoni e i clarinetti di Tobias Delius e Wanja Slavin e aggiunge in tre brani il pianoforte impertinente del veterano Joachim Kühn. Una ricetta peculiare che produce buoni frutti, dispiegando una musica intensa e originale, piena di sussulti e colpi di mano, sospesa magicamente fra improvvisazione e dilatazione delle idee compositive. Il clima è spesso dolente e pensoso, ma non mancano guizzi luminosi che aprono squarci nel cielo plumbeo. Forse la scintilla decisiva, che ha fatto decollare in maniera così ben calibrata questo bel progetto, va ricercata nell’atmosfera intensa dell’isola di Ibiza, dove Joachim Kühn risiede da molti anni. Il pianista ha avuto modo di suonare in jam session con il giovane batterista e dopo alcuni giorni gli ha proposto di raccogliere le idee e di concretizzarle in un progetto discografico che si è poi realizzato proprio nella capricciosa isola spagnola. Cotto e mangiato. http://italia.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=4388

Time Out Lisboa review by Jose Carlos Fernandes

CF 142Christian Lillinger – First Reason (CF 142)
Grund (solo, chão) é o nome deste grupo do baterista alemão Christian Lillinger e tem razão de ser, pois encontra-se bem alicerçado nos dois contrabaixos de Jonas Westergaard e Robert Landfermann. Sobre eles evoluem os saxofones e clarinetes de Wanja Slavin e Tobias Delius e, em três temas, o piano do veterano Jochim Kühn. Não é por acaso que Kühn apadrinha este disco (e emprega Lillinger no seu trio): é que aos tenros 25 anos do baterista correspondem uma maturidade e uma versatilidade composicional invulgares.
Ao vendaval de “Pfranz” sucede-se o solene coral para sopros e arcos de “Felarbeit” e o workshop de bateria emoldurado por contrabaixos com arco “Grund I”. E isto são só os primeiros três temas do primeiro disco – há muito a esperar deste rapaz.