Sendecki & Spiegel – Two in the Mirror
(Skip Records. CD review by Tomasz Furmanek)
Two in the Mirror is the fruit of a collaboration between two jazz musicians with high profiles across continental Europe who are both based in Hamburg: Polish-born Vladyslav Sendecki is the pianist of the NDR Big Band and has been named by New York’s Village Voice as one of the five most significant jazz pianists in the world; Jürgen Spiegel is a German drummer, composer and producer of a wide range of music and video projects, and for the past 15 years has been the drummer in the Tingvall Trio.
Ten of the 11 tracks are originals, with the track Lucky but Unhappy a co-composition by Sendecki and the late guitarist Jarek Smietana, from a time when the two worked together in the same band.
The configuration of drums and piano as a duo is unusual, but, as Sendecki says in a sleeve note, this music is dedicated to “to all open-minded and big-hearted people”. It’s a musical journey, it’s piano and drums without any borders. These are musical tales that start somewhere from one point and seemingly can end on the other side of our universe…
Two in the Mirror is mostly improvised. Sendecki described their process to me in an interview: “What we play probably cannot be defined, because neither I nor Jürgen are stylistically limited. So the fun takes place in every direction, and in every direction (as in our concerts) it can happen. Our art consists in the fact that we play not only with sounds and melodies, but also with tone and various categories of thinking… and it is all open in every direction, and in this fantasy there is simply no limit.”
The basic idea is that they see the breadth of possibility in this instrumental combination rather than any kind of limitation: “This is the whole orchestra,” says Sendecki, “I don’t play here the way a jazz pianist usually plays: on two octaves only, because there also is a bass that takes half of the keyboard from me. I’m just a man-orchestra, for me the piano IS an orchestra here, all the time.” Great piano sound is another merit of Jürgen Spiegel, who recorded and mixed the material: “Oh yes!” Vladislav confirms. “The piano! When listening to these recordings, you feel like you have your head in the piano – sensational, I love it! There is every nuance there, a whole palette of sounds and colors, this sound is carrying!” Both pianist and drummer have an admirable way of creating musical space. Spiegel approaches the drums in an innovative way, not just being in charge of the rhythm.
I was curious what had led them to the album title, bearing in mind that the drummer’s surname Spiegel is the German word for mirror: “We called it Two in the Mirror because the mirror shows not only reality, but the mirror can also give you a more surreal insight or image,” explains Sendecki. “It is all a very individual matter – the way we see something, how we see us – not only ourselves, but also one another. In addition, we are still processing this image, by feeling, we fill what we see with fantasy and, simply, with creativity… It also depends a lot on what angle we are going to look at the mirror, what is the light… We react to everything.”
This is music that escapes classification, very contemporary, but not afraid of beautiful melody and lyricism. Think of it is an open-ended and unpretentious musical conversation between two musicians who are perfectly matched in terms of personality and sensitivity, who understand and complement each other. It is a conversation full of spontaneity, twists, expressiveness and fun with both forms and sounds. It’s music filled with joy of playing. Often poignant, sensual, sometimes melancholic or even elegiac, always beautiful, never confined to restrictive dogmas: “there are different ideas about what is jazz – I am not into this kind of discussion, I’m not interested. I play such music because it gives me this freedom to be myself, but I don’t play only for myself. I also play to act on people, to take them in my arms and take them with me for a ride!” says Sendecki.
“Some jazz musicians, those who are very academic, often discuss a lot and everything gets very complicated… It is not so with us, and I like it very much, because when we play together I can go crazy, and Jürgen will either withdraw himself, or will do something with it to match up and join the party. He is sovereign enough, he is a partner. And everything is like “without the burden”, you know: “is this jazz or is it not jazz?” I think it’s just that people are afraid of many things. We are not afraid, and besides, we like and respect each other, there is a really big sympathy and trust between us that is normal and human. That is why we are not even interested in what anyone might or might not say or think, but we are interested in music and the audience, and in expressing ourselves in this positive sense, because it is the positive and creative that is important to us!”
Two in the Mirror is a very interesting, exciting album, uncompromising, but very attractive, even for a not necessarily well-trained listener. As Sendecki says, “music is the universe. The only limit to music is man”.