Orchestral jazz, flowing on the border between simplicity and complexity: Sven Heinze and Luis Reichard release their debut album Graphic Novel after almost three years of working together. Heinze is composer, arranger and conductor, Reichard trumpeter and producer. The inspiration for Graphic Novel comes from their studies of jazz and classical music, listening to music together (Leonard Bernstein, radio.string.quartet.vienna, E.S.T. SYMPHONY) and studying the theories of the music philosopher Joseph Schillinger.
The result is eight pieces for string quintet, flugelhorn and percussion. Typical jazz grooves, harmonies and improvisations can be found as well as many polyphonic passages, minimal music patterns and floating soundscapes.
“Writing for this line-up was a challenge,” Reichard recalls. “We wanted to take full advantage of the string instruments’ playing possibilities.” And indeed, when listening in depth, one hears an abundance of flageolets, double stops and pizzicati. In some passages even fine percussive effects are notated, played with the back of the bow – col legno battuto in technical language. Heinze’s experience, which he had gained while writing numerous orchestral arrangements, including for the WDR Funkhausorchester, was indispensable for this. “On Graphic Novel, the high demands of a classical score are combined with the spontaneity of a groovy jazz tune,” Heinze sums up.
Heinze and Reichard and their fellow musicians retreated to the Buchnerhof in South Tyrol to record the elaborate programme. The wooden house with its characteristic acoustics offered the right ambience for concentrated work. The musicians played together in one room, interacted and enjoyed the view of the valley during the breaks.
“The authenticity of the performance, making music together and also the resonance of the instruments makes the recording very special and has also determined my work on the mix from the very beginning”, confirms sound engineer Patrick Leuchter. And so the result sounds lively and warm, the strings singing, the drums springy and Reichard’s flugelhorn clear and expressive.
But what’s up with the graphics, which are also found in the booklet and album title? Every piece is based on such graphics, created from numerical relationships that Heinze condensed into geometric patterns on the computer and which were rhythmically interpreted for the first musical sketches. Free associations led to the title of the piece and strongly influenced the atmosphere of the composition. In this way, a story can be assumed in each piece, which unfolds on listening.
Dandelion opens the album. The motivic reduction and the even rubato give the piece something timeless. Right at the beginning a single, fragile tone by violist Pauline Buss draws the listener under the spell of the purely acoustic sound that characterizes the whole album. The expressiveness of the strings, which start one after the other, arouses curiosity and leads into the sonic world of Graphic Novel.
Gently pulsating and with restrained pizzicati Sea Horse follows. In this open, chamber-musical composition, the brilliance of the five-part string section is revealed, the percussion gently blends in and the flugelhorn dabs improvisatory comments.
Fortress and Rose Window are two pieces coupled together. Characterized by the rhythmic “two against three”, Fortress captivates with its springy groove and large dynamic arcs. A clear contrast to this is the concise drum groove right at the beginning of Rose Window – it forms the framework for a catchy melody in seven-four time. Then the ensemble surprises with a rhythmically differentiated middle section that rolls organically despite the complicated beat. Here drummer Jeroen Truyen does a great job.
Truyen also lays the foundation for Anemone. The strings seem to float above the rhythm, an elegiac flugelhorn melody creates an almost revelling atmosphere. With a bass solo, soulfully played by the Cologne scene great Stefan Schönegg, the Anemone fades away – indeed, withers away.
Parachute is characterized by contrasts: a mysterious, yearning melody (rhythmically inspired by the Fibonacci series) leads into a dramatic violin solo, expressively played by Anna Neubert. The piece accelerates and then falls into the abyss with powerful eighth chains and drum ‘n’ base groove. After a yearning cello cadenza (Beate Wolff), it reaches its quiet climax in Schönegg’s concluding improvisation.
But that’s not all: violinist Enis Hotaj leads over to Bloom with an improvised cadenza. Clear harmonies meet the rhythmic complexity of seven-four time. Listening to the music, images immediately shoot into the head when listening; the theme could be taken from the film music for one of the Middle Earth films. The rhythm becomes even more complex in the solo part – Reichard improvises with somnambulistic certainty over the string sounds that carry him.
The final piece Boxwood begins equally rhythmically. But the atmosphere changes abruptly – heavy crashing accents of the percussion/string group deliver a cinematic chase with a snotty commenting flugelhorn improvisation. In the end the opponents unite. What follows is a dynamic increase over several minutes, accurately controlled by Heinze: pulsating flageolets and tremolos, a melody that becomes increasingly polyphonically differentiated and leads into a dramatic fortissimo. At the end, an ingeniously composed motivic slowdown causes the scenery to calm down again and the circle to Dandelion to close.
Jazz fans will love Graphic Novel as much as friends of Minimal Music. Those who like devotedly performed music will find characteristic crossovers on Graphic Novel – and in the best case many fascinating stories.
Composed and arranged by Sven Heinze and Luis Reichard in the spring of 2017 at Kloster Kamp and elsewhere.
Recorded in November and December 2017 at the Buchnerhof near Bozen by Patrick Leuchter (www.patrickleuchter.com).
Recording supervisor Luis Reichard (www.luisreichard.de).
Assistance Wilko Nordholz.
Mixed 2017-2019 at Hidden Track Studio Cologne by Patrick Leuchter.
Produced by Sven Heinze, Luis Reichard and Patrick Leuchter.
Mastered in spring 2019 by Zino Mikrorey, Berlin.
Designed in spring 2019 by Pierre Hansen, Aachen.
Sven Heinze – Conductor and musical director
Luis Reichard – Flugelhorn
Anna Neubert – violin
Enis Hotaj – violin
Pauline Buss – viola
Beate Wolff – violoncello
Stefan Schönegg – double bass
Jeroen Truyen – drum set