Bassist Olie Brice previews his gig with Achim Kaufmann and Roger Turner at the Vortex, Dalston on 20th March with some personal reflections and an interview. Olie Brice writes:
I first came across Achim Kaufmann’s playing a few years ago. A bass player friend and I were discussing our mutual love of Mark Dresser’s bass playing, and he told me he’d recently picked up a piano trio CD featuring him He stuck it on, and I was immediately transfixed – as much by the piano playing as anything else. Rarely had I heard a pianist find such an organic blend between textural improv and advanced jazz harmony – moving between the keyboard and the inside of the piano without ever sounding like it was a different approach.
After picking up several more albums with Achim on, and hearing him live with Axel Dörner, I knew he was someone I really wanted to play with, so when I had a couple of gigs in Berlin I got in touch and we met up for a play. That was as much fun as I had hoped, and we decided we should do some gigs together. Achim had been doing a bit of playing with Roger Turner, an incredible improv drummer whom I had played with once and very much wanted to again. We all agreed it sounded like an interesting combination, so on March 20th we’ll be performing as a trio at the Vortex, in Dalston.
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As I suspect not that many listeners in London have come across Achim’s music before, I thought I’d write up an introduction and interview for this blog – so here, in his own words, Achim Kaufmann:
Ollie Brice: Have you played in London before? Or with London-based musicians?
Achim Kaufmann: No, this will be my first time ever! Some of my favourite listening experiences involve musicians from London, but I have only played with a few London-based musicians so far, not a whole lot – a few times with Roger Turner; with Paul Rutherford at the Vancouver jazz fest about ten years ago; even longer ago with Julian and Steve Argüelles (not sure if Julian lives in London at present; Steve has been living in Paris for a long time). I did a gig with Paul Lytton and Ingrid Laubrock a few months ago (which was a very enjoyable experience) but Ingrid lives in NYC now and Paul in Belgium since god-knows-when. And again with Roger Turner and Tim Hodgkinson recently in Berlin. Can’t wait to play more with London-based musicians!
OB: I’ve been really enjoying listening to your trio albums with Jim Black and Valdi Kolli; is that your main project as a leader?How did it come about?
AK: Some years ago, the Pirouet label in Munich approached me to do a record for them. I opted for a piano trio which I hadn’t done for a while. I had this rough idea in my mind – an acoustic piano trio dealing with collage forms, with rock-ish overtones – for which Jim Black was my dream choice.
Since the protagonists of the Kyrill trio live in different parts of the world, we can’t just get together and do a rehearsal or a gig when we feel like it. Everything has to be planned out ahead of time very carefully, especially in view of Jim’s busy schedule. We cut two records and did a tour, the organization of which was totally in my hands but I don’t think we’ll be able to do much in the near future.
OB: What other projects have you got on the go?
AK: The working bands I am involved with now are mostly collective groups. I prefer that actually, to being a leader in the traditional sense.
One group that first got together around the time I moved to Berlin (2009) is a piano trio called Grünen with two great young musicians, Robert Landfermann on bass and Christian Lillinger on drums. It started with a completely improvised disc (our first encounter, released on Clean Feed), meanwhile we mix it up with written material contributed by everybody.
I find it very important to keep working on music over long periods of time, to see how it evolves, and to gauge how we develop ways of merging composed bits and improvisation. Since Christian lives in Berlin, we can get together and work something out, play through some new material, even if there is no immediate gig or tour.
Another steady group that has been around for more than ten years now is the trio with bassist Wilbert de Joode and reedist Frank Gratkowski. Our fourth CD has just been released, as always the music is completely improvised. Recently, the trio has started collaborating with the composer/electronic improviser Richard Barrett.
Ever since 1998, I have also been playing regularly with the Amsterdam-based clarinetist, saxophonist, and composer Michael Moore. He was a member of my quartet which released two discs, Double Exposure on Leo and Gueuledeloup on Red Toucan. We also had a trio with the Canadian drummer Dylan van der Schyff, the Kamosc trio (All these trans-atlantic groups tend to make life complicated in terms of playing…). I have also been in some ad hoc groups of his. He is constantly writing new material- very prolific, beautiful and inspiring. Recently, Michael and I recorded as a duo – possibly a disc’s worth of improvisations, and another disc or two with our compositions, plus some Herbie Nichols and Andrew Hill tunes.
OB: What about Starmelodics with Mark Dresser and Harris Eisenstadt?
AK: I met Harris Eisenstadt at the Vancouver jazz festival in 2003. He was living in Los Angeles at the time. A short time later, while I was visiting and doing some playing on the West Coast, we did some gigs together and also met up and had a play with Mark. He seemed open to a continuation of this collaboration, and it magically became a reality when Russ Summers of Nuscope Recordings offered to record the trio in 2008. It was a great experience, and hopefully we will play more in public at some point.
OB: You seem to work with a variety of approaches – sometimes using composition, sometimes completely free. Do you have a preference between the two?
AK: If someone would put a pistol to my head and ask me to choose between one or the other approach, I would probably go for improvisation – simply because I enjoy the immediacy, the physical aspect of playing. In fact, I enjoy both. With some groups,it is all about improvising(or composition in real time) with others, it is a mix of the written and the improvised. It has to do with the people involved, and what is needed.
Initially, I was interested in using compositional strategies to explore different forms and ways of development, to create a music that would depart from the chordal structures, vamps and the theme-solos-theme formula still prevalent in a lot of contemporary jazz forms. Through the people I have invited to play my music (Michael Moore being very important in that respect), I gained more experience as an improviser so after a while I felt that less and less pre-composed material was needed. I came to a point where I actually preferred to make it all up in the moment, create forms onthe spot. With Kaufmann/Gratkowski/deJoode, we do that all the time. It works well because we all think contrapuntally which lends depth to the music; at the same time we seem to be ready for, yes, almost conditioned to, change at any time. The same goes for Michael – improvising is a challenge each time. It is important not to make it too easy for each other, to forego“automatic” playing and superficiality.
Some years ago, improvisation actually made me want to write “tunes” again –which can be treated rather traditionally as what it is,or as “found objects” in the middle of more abstract improvising. There are still many ways of combining composition and “real-time” composition.
Often I just like to have the time to work something out, to get something out that is in my mind, create a structure on paper, do research with structures and parameters. It is a very personal, intimate process which I enjoy as a part of my existence. Communicating this to other musicians is another story, and playing it in public yet another one. I don’t have a problem with dropping a composition that doesn’t work in a certain context when it stands in the way of our collective energy and intentions.
OB: What do you have coming up that you’re excited about?
*More playing with Kaufmann/Gratkowski/de Joode, also with an extended group named SKEIN (the trio plus Richard Barrett, Okkyung Lee, and Tony Buck).
* More playing and preparing a CD with Grünen.
* Releasing the duo with Michael Moore – and hopefully some gigs.
* More concerts with Christian Lillinger’s band Grund.
* Preparing a solo release (recorded last December – no inside piano, for a change!)
* Recording trio with Axel Dörner and Okkyung Lee.
* Releasing a duo CD with Thomas Heberer on Red Toucan in May.
* Playing and recording Herbie Nichols pieces with vocalist Fay Victor.
* Working on an on-going music and text project with my wife, poet/artist Gabriele D.R. Guenther.
Ollie Brice:Anything else you’d like to tell the readers of LondonJazzNews?
Achim Kaufmann: Yes. Come see and hear us play!
Olie Brice, Achim Kaufmann and Roger Turner will play at the Vortex on 20th March 2013 at 08:00PM. Tickets HERE