Michael Wollny Trio Live Wartburg / Michael Wollny Trio Oslo
(ACT 9862-2 and ACT 9863-2. CD Review by Jon Turney)
Two nourishing helpings of Michael Wollny’s impressively wide-ranging piano trio here. The original notion was to combine material from the studio session, in Oslo last September, with extracts from a live show in Wartburg castle a week later.
Reviewing the recordings, Siggi Loch, whose ACT label’s silver jubilee was marked at Wartburg, threw out that plan. There would be two CDs, co-released, to showcase the current work of the label’s biggest star.
Good decision. The two fit together beautifully, the opening tune in Oslo reappearing as the encore in Wartburg. The treatments are delightfully different. In the studio, the trio – Wollny, Christian Weber on bass and Eric Schaefer on drums – were joined on three tracks by the Norwegian Wind Ensemble, who improvise together under guidance from curator Geir Lysne. Their contributions add dramatic range, though the bulk of the album is trio alone. In Wartburg, the trio were joined by Emile Parisien, and his urgent soprano saxophone brings an appealingly astringent note to the conversation in the latter part of the concert.
The studio set sounds more considered, although there’s plenty of rollicking invention. The live performance, the trio sweeping through the first seven tunes without any breaks, is a characteristically wild ride, ranging from stately, classically-inflected melodies to bluesy vamps over strict tempo rhythm figures to the headlong accelerandos Wollny favours when it’s time for some (cheap?) thrills. Parisien is superb – no quick guest spot, this; he instantly turns a high achieving trio into a fully-integrated quartet.
The studio set features more pieces by other composers (Hindemith, Faure, Debussy), and more big helpings of a piano style that moves freely between Jarrett and Hancock-like passages and brilliant flourishes that are all Wollny’s own.
It’s a brace of CDs that fascinates for the differences as the same, intimately involved players strive to make the moment in two different contexts. I could offer a bunch of reasons to favour one over the other – but yours won’t be the same. If the budget permits, you should definitely hear both.