Album reviews

Michael Wollny Trio – ‘Ghosts’

Michael Wollny Trio – Ghosts (release date 30 Sep 2022)
(ACT 9956-2. CD review by Mike Collins) 

With the release of Ghosts, pianist Michael Wollny reunites the trio that recorded Weltentraum, the 2014 album that brought his already mature and prodigious gifts to wider attention. Wollny has been busy since then and worked with bass player Tim Lefebvre and drummer Eric Schaefer separately on various projects. Their reunion on Ghosts concentrates new preoccupations and accumulated experience on an eclectic selection of pieces to compelling effect.

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Album cover

Standards like Gershwin’s I Loves You Porgy and Ellington’s In A Sentimental Mood sit alongside David Sylvian’s Ghosts and Schubert’s Erlkoenig and some Wollny originals. The trio fuse them with an often foreboding sound and frequently dramatic reinvention of the originals.

I Loves You Porgy floats in with chiming chords and an electronic shimmer, only to be grounded by a throbbing pulse and heavy, marching chords. A finely wrought statement of the open bars of the theme spirals off into crystalline abstraction.

In A Sentimental Mood has been filtered through distorting mirrors and the iconic Ellington/Coltrane recording. Traces of that version and eerie allusions to some of the melodic lines are patiently developed by the trio. Erlkoenig builds a fevered energy with a stomping, ragged rocky momentum. There are lyrical episodes.

Willow’s Song from the soundtrack of The Wicker Man is beautifully rendered with delicate melodic development and on She Moves Through The Fair, the trio allow the traditional melody to sing and unfold organically, tumbling along. Ghosts too is ruminative but all textures and piano effects, with angular allusions to the original lines from cymbals. The trio whip up a storm on Nick Cave’s Hand of God, and close on a meditative, slowly marching groove exploring swamp rockers Timber Timbre’s Beat The Drum Slowly.

Wollny and the Trio play an idea or the spirit of many of these pieces. The brooding, many-layered sound is never constraining, there’s a continuing sense of exploration and invention, but there’s nothing superfluous. It’s a set to return to and discover new shades and colours each time. This is a welcome return for the Weltentraum line-up. 

Ghosts is released on 30 September

Mike Collins is a pianist and writer based in Bath, who runs the jazzyblogman site. Twitter: @jazzyblogman

LINK: Ghosts on ACT Music

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