Photo credit: © ACT/Jörg Steinmetz
Michael Wollny Trio plus Andrew McCormack solo
(Kings Place Hall One, 12th November 2016. Review by Patrick Hadfield)
Andrew McCormack opened this sell out concert with a short solo piano set. It must be hard opening for the current Wunderkind of European jazz, but McCormack gave an enthralling performance. He resides in New York, yet his music has a distinctly European feel, seeming to mix a modern-classical style with jazz sensibility. He bookended his show with two pieces more in the American tradition, Prospect Park which had echoes of Ellington’s solo work, and Hitchcock, a homage to film noir and Bernard Hermann in particular, the cascading arpeggios enough to invoke Vertigo.
The Michael Wollny Trio was a different prospect altogether. Their high energy set like McCormack’s included jazz and classical idiom from many genres, but sometimes it seemed like they were trying to play them all at once. It was thrilling and impressive, like a roller coaster, but it also left me feeling a bit battered and bruised.
There is no escaping their superlative musicianship. Pianist Michael Wollny displayed amazing stamina and technique, at times forceful and domineering, at others gentle and contemplative. He is well matched by Eric Schaefer on drums and bassist Christian Weber, who were both very impressive. Schaefer’s display of cymbal work was amongst the fastest I’ve seen, a real propulsive force in the music, and his brush work was subtle.
They played pieces by fourteenth century composer Guillaume de Machaut – the first of their set, de desconfort – and his twentieth century equivalent, Hindemith (Rufe in der horchenden Nacht), as well pieces by Wollny, Schaefer, and adaptations of traditional German tunes. Wollny’s tune der wanderer was slower than most, evoking big open spaces or a cathedral like interior. Other pieces were more physical, Wollny using his fists and elbows, Weber bowing his bass frantically and Schaefer positively frenetic behind his kit.
Within a single piece the trio moved from fast free jazz, through chamber jazz to jazz rock, often changing suddenly from one style to another. Such eclecticism was at times wearing, as I struggled to keep up – it seemed almost willfully eccentric, whilst being simultaneously compelling. They finished the set with an intense climax of fast piano work, highly energetic, all three of them drenched in sweat. A standing ovation brought them back for an encore, slightly more gentle. A fascinating evening, which was exhilarating – but also draining.