Live reviews

REVIEW: Michael Wollny Trio at Kings Place

Michael Wollny at Kings Place
Photo credit: David Forman
Michael Wollny Trio
(Kings Place Hall One. 18 May 2018. Review by Sebastian Scotney)

“I have become increasingly interested in the moments between the songs,” pianist Michael Wollny told an interviewer (*) recently. “The piece gets going, then something happens and that leads somewhere.” His trio, he also said, over the past two years has slowly developed a way of playing that is completely “flüssig” (the German word carries the sense of both ‘fluid’ and ‘free-flowing’). All that was very much in evidence at Friday’s concert in Kings Place Hall One. Wollny’s trio doesn’t play just single tunes, they tend to be offered as diptychs, triptychs, handfuls – sometimes even more.

L-R: Michael Wollny, Christian Weber, Erik Schaefer
Photo credit: David Forman
His trio, just as in the recent live album Wartburg, showed itself to be a creative vehicle which can offer the listener a complete and very satisfying sequence. On Wartburg, as Jon Turney points out in his CD review, there is a “characteristically wild ride, ranging from stately, classically-inflected melodies to bluesy vamps over strict tempo rhythm figures to the headlong accelerandos”. On that  album there is an uninterrupted sequence which incorporates no fewer than seven numbers.

Saturday’s Kings Place concert was different. Compared to the album, this was an even wilder ride – harder-hitting, more into abstraction and free improvisation. There were more compositions by drummer Eric Schaefer, and it was his variety and dynamic range from the the lightest taps with the hand on the skin of a drum to being at the heart of full-on intensity builds that was much more to the fore than on Wartburg.

Eric Schaefer
Photo credit: David Forman
Saturday’s trio concert took place precisely one week before Wollny’s 40th birthday. “Mezzo del camin” is clearly a good place to be for Wollny and for this regular band. By the standards of the concert halls this successful trio now plays most of its concerts in, Kings Place Hall One is quite small, but Wollny mentioned twice how much they were enjoying the acoustic. Some of the habits learned in  bigger halls, where intentions need to be semaphored more overtly, have rubbed off on this group, just as they have on a group like Phronesis. Christian Weber on bass, whom photographer David Forman has caught well (photo below) in a moment with his encouraging gaze directed at Schaefer, stands at the centre, and with his powerful tone has a pivotal role.

Christian Weber
Photo credit: David Forman
The contrast between ascetic contrapuntal discipline and twinkle-in-the-eye mischief, and all the spaces in between, make a Wollny trio concert an experience in which an audience is led through music which in isolation might seem impossibly challenging to listen to. All three members share a joy in savouring contrasts and  opposites. This pianist, for example, who is capable of infinitely delicate filigree and has a delicate and fine touch, chose to make his final statement a repeated multi-octave pummelling of the keyboard with both forearms. And yet, as the final gesture it seemed like a neat, apt and puckish way to conclude the gig.

Receiving the applause from an enthusiastic Kings Place audience
Photo credit: David Forman


Atavus (E Schaefer)
Big Louise (Scott Walker)
Perpetuum Mobile (E Schaefer)
Inerludium (Hindemith)
Farbenlehre (Wollny)
Gravite (E Schaefer)
Nuits Blanches (Debussy)
Roses are Black (Heinz Sauer)
When the Sleeper Wakes ( Wollny)
Lasse! Comment oublieray (Guillaume de Machaut)
Gorilla Buiscuits (E. Schaefer)
Encores –
White Moon (Chris Beier)
Phlegma Phighter (E Schaefer)

(*) Stefan Hentz in the May/ June issue of Jazzthetik
LINK: Michael Wollny Artist Page at ACT Music

Categories: Live reviews

Leave a Reply