#IWD Profiles/Interviews

#IWD2023: German composer, clarinettist and bandleader Rebecca Trescher

German composer, clarinettist and bandleader Rebecca Trescher made a substantial impact on the German jazz scene with her Tentet album “Paris Zyklus – The Spirit of the Streets”, released on Enja in November 2021. It had two nominations and one win at the 2022 German Jazz Prize.

Originally from the university town of Tübingen near Stuttgart, Trescher is based for the time being in Nürnberg. In 2022 she was listed as a Rising Star on clarinet by Downbeat Magazine. Her latest album, by her Rebecca Trescher New Shapes Quartet, including rising guitar star Philipp Schiepek, is entitled “Silent Landscapes”, also on Enja. Interview for International Women’s Day by Sebastian Scotney:

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Rebecca Trescher. Photo © Dovile Sermokas

LondonJazz News: The German magazine Jazzpodium has called “Paris Zyklus – The Spirit of the Streets” a ‘masterpiece’. In what ways has it been important for your development as a composer? 

Rebecca Trescher: The album “Paris Zyklus” was my fourth release as a composer and bandleader for large ensemble and is another building block in my compositional work.

I have been working in a disciplined way for years, leading my own band. In the meantime I have a top-class tentet with whom I can try out and develop my musical ideas. We know each other very well and really trust each other, which, of course, is also something conducive for the music and for the whole performance.

Through the four albums I have written for large ensemble I have gained a lot of experience and my ideas about sound have become more and more refined. I feel I have become quicker and more assured in the way I bring musical ideas into being. The way one learns is by doing and by reflecting over a long period of time, in my case 10 years now, a time during which there have also been some very challenging and sometimes painful situations.

For me, the process is the goal. It is important for me to get beyond the fear of making mistakes. If you generate output regularly, you learn, reflect and keep on developing. As a result, the way I conceive sound is constantly being refined, and it forms a setting where new music and my musical visions can be nurtured. This is what I strive for and what gives me a lot of pleasure. Maybe the next masterpiece will come soon…now there’s something to look forward to… !

Rebecca Trescher Tentet Live. Photo credit: Lutz Voigtländer

LJN: Let’s go back to the origins of “Paris Zyklus”. You ended up spending quite a short time in Paris because of the pandemic. Do you feel the city or experiences there have left a mark?

RT: Yes, it was just a short time. I was only there for four months, but it was a very intense time. The exchange with some fabulous international artists from all over the world was very inspiring and gave me huge encouragement to keep continuing along my artistic path. Everyone there was fighting for their art and their individual vision. In the four-part cycle of works, I process my impressions of the jazz scene there, which I experienced as very straight, beat-oriented and strongly influenced by African-American culture. This spirit was something which influenced me strongly, and also inspired me in a sustainable way during the composition process.

LJN: Your writing large ensemble has really developed and prospered. Am I right in remembering that Steffen Schorn was important in the early stages?

RT: My tentet has a very heterogeneous line-up, and one which is also in some ways very fragile. Each player in the band has enormous responsibility. The players are not arranged in the discrete sections of a big band at all. The roles change, even sometimes within a piece.

Steffen Schorn was definitely an important influence in the original formation of this unique line-up. He always encouraged me to think outside the box. That still often presents me with a challenge, because there is little precedent either in written-out music or in recordings to guide the way my ensemble should sound. I have learned a lot through trial and error. But that also presents great opportunities, even if it can often be a very laborious process. I find I reflect a lot on the material and constantly develop and refine a personal style through writing for this group.

LJN: You seem to relish the challenge of part-writing for large ensemble. What drew you to that kind of writing?

RT: I enjoy framing a concept, and developing long story lines. It inspires me to stay with a mood, an idea, for a long time and to illuminate it from different sides. This means either continuing to make it evolve further or to discard it and develop new nuclei from it. This creates a story for me, a guiding thread that gives me the motivation as a composer to stick with it, to follow it through and to bring it to completion. And the story behind it also helps me to imagine arcs of dramaturgy in the music and to give them a shape. After that the orchestration tends to fall in place quite quickly.

LJN: We understand there is another large ensemble album about to be recorded this summer?

RT: Yes, that’s right. In June 2023 we will be going into the studios of Bavarian Radio in Nürnberg to record new music. I am currently working on a new cycle called “The Individualism of Ten”. Each musician in my tentet submitted a musical sketch to me last year, from which I have composed and arranged a new tailor-made programme. In doing so, I respond to the characters and personalities of each of the members of my band, take up the very different ideas, put them through a meat grinder, develop them further, shape them, weave them together, and create new works entirely in the spirit of the musical and sound language which I have developed .

LJN: Let’s also talk about “Silent Landscapes” and your quartet…who are the other musicians involved and how have they influenced your writing for the group?

RT: I met guitarist Philipp Schiepek in Munich during my composition studies. His subtle playing inspired me and I could imagine his sound with my clarinets. I’d also had the desire for a long time to form a quartet again, a group where I am more in the foreground as instrumentalist. I wanted to focus on the guitar as a harmony instrument, because it is in a way more permeable and transparent than piano; I found that exciting for my compositional style, my clarinet sound and my way of playing. In addition, the intensive large ensemble composition work I do means that I am always on the lookout for exciting voicings. I put a lot of thought into how they could be made to work with vibraphone, harp, piano and guitar, and also how they could blend with my clarinet and bass clarinet.

Jan Brill on drums and Lukas Keller on double bass enrich the band with the many ways they find to interact, essentially as chamber musicians, both of them bringing their warm tone and strong creative input. Jan is a very active jazz musician in the Nuremberg scene; Lukas lives in Cologne and is active in a wide variety of projects. Although we all live in different cities, when we rehearse and work together before concerts, it’s always very refreshing and fun to bring our different perspectives on the music. I also try to compose more pieces where I limit myself to one page of manuscript paper, and leave much more freedom for interpretation, improvisation and interplay.

This way of working puts more emphasis on the personal style of each of them as an individual. When we work like this, the composition will often only provide the framework, and we can, so to speak, paint the picture together.

LINKS: Rebecca Trescher’s Quartet and Tentet are represented by Agentur Wolkenstein – ARTIST PAGE.

Rebecca Trescher (artist website and Bandcamp) gratefully acknowledges project support from Initiative Musik.

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