Christian Weidner – Every Hour Of The Light And Dark (2016)

FrontCover1Christian Weidner is a German Saxophonist and composer who has worked with internationally renowned musicians and bands. His own music projects have been released on the Munich label Pirouet since 2004.

As a musician and teacher, he pursues an integrated approach. Equally central to Weidner’s work are the consolidation of tradition, research into new methods and the dedication to authentic personal expression.

Christian Weidner was born in 1976, grew up in Kassel and discovered the alto saxophone and jazz at the age of 12. At 16 he played in the Hesse State Youth Jazz Orchestra and at 17 in the Federal (national) Youth Jazz Orchestra. At 18 he won first prize in the ‘Jugend Jazzt’ (Youth Plays Jazz) competition and began playing in a duo with Gunter Hampel, a collaboration which would continue for many years. In 1996 he began studying at the Hamburg University of Music. In 1999 he received an Erasmus scholarship to study in Stockholm and from 2000-2002 he studied at the Hanns Eisler School of Music in Berlin.

Christian Weidner02

In 1999 Weidner moved to Berlin and began working together with well-respected contemporaries of the Berlin scene, such as Eric Schaefer, Simon Stockhausen, Chris Dahlgren, Antonis Anissegos, Gebhard Ullmann, Christian Lillinger, Dejan Terzic, Ronny Graupe und Oliver Steidle.

In the following years, he also played in the Franco-German Jazz Ensemble with Albert Mangelsdorff and worked in the bands of Günter Lenz, John Schröder und Rainer Tempel as well as on projects by Henning Sieverts, Kalle Kalima und Sebastian Merk together with international greats such as Kurt Rosenwinkel, John Hollenbeck und Greg Cohen.

2004 saw the beginning of an intensive collaboration with the jazz label Pirouet Records, which resulted in the first recordings of his trio, together with Daniel Schröteler und Antonio Palesano. The trio then became a quartet and since then, three albums, widely praised by the international music press, have been released. Currently playing with him in the quartet are Achim Kaufmann, Henning Sieverts und Samuel Rohrer.

Christian Weidner03

In addition, Weidner plays in Frank Gratkowski’s experimental microtonal saxophone quartet ‘Four Alto’, in Frank Möbus’ trio ‘Der Rote Bereich’, in the harpist Kathrin Pechlof’s trio collective, in Johannes Lauer’s orchestra ‘Lauer Large’, in Norwegian Karl Ivar Refseth’s trio and in Robert Landfermann’s quintet with Elias Stemeseder, Sebastian Gille and Jim Black.

Since 2008, Weidner has worked regularly with the voice actor Christian Brückner. He composed the music to audio books by Kazuo Ishiguro and Ror Wolf and performed an E.E. Cummings programme as a duo with Brückner at the 2013 Berlin Jazz Festival.

Weidner has received numerous studio advancement prizes as well as a composition scholarship from the Berlin Senate. He has led workshops at the Colleges of Music in Dresden, Hanover und Danzig, as well as while on tour for the Goethe Institute in diverse locations in South East Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. Since 2014 he acts as external expert and member of the jury at the Bern University of the Arts as part of the Bachelor examination process.

From 2013-2018 Weidner also co-curated the Berlin concert series ‘Serious Series’.

In autumn 2015 Christian Weidner was appointed Professor of Saxophone at the State University of Music and Performing Arts Stuttgart. (press release)

Christian Weidner04

When it comes to so-called “free” jazz, there’s a lingering misconception among some listeners who’ve only heard Sun Ra, Albert Ayler, or late-period Coltrane – there’s the belief that “free” means “fiery,” and that all of the music, by necessity, comes out of the same white-hot barrel as Peter Brötzmann’s Machine Gun. Of course, that’s not true; while some of the genre’s best recordings are, indeed, explosive, there are just as many that evade that descriptor. In short, there are many shades of freedom. Some sound like spiraling shrapnel from a hand-grenade, and others are closer to the lazy flights of migratory birds.

Christian Weidner is one of those artists who sticks to the cooler, calmer side of the free jazz spectrum. His compositions are, well, composed, and they always seem to maintain a certain reserve, an equable demeanor that lends itself well to the late hours. On this, his latest album, Weidner returns with the trusty group that helped him deliver the enchanting Dream Boogie: Achim Kaufmann on piano, Henning Sieverts on bass, and Samuel Rohrer on drums. Dream Boogie was a stellar effort, with pieces that ranged from the architectural elegance of ECM, to pieces that wandered down more unpredictable paths.

Christian Weidner05

After one or two listens, there might not seem to be much to distinguish Every Hour of the Light and Dark from the previous album; both exist in a world of dreams, and the compositions themselves mirror this fact – sometimes, they glide along with a sensible, transparent beauty. Other times, they come to us in fractals, shards of melody that skip and stutter and swirl. Like the duo of Ivo Perelman and Matthew Shipp, Kaufmann and Weidner have a certain simpatico when they play together, and they tackle all this stylistic variation with astounding proficiency.

Though this newest album shares many attributes with the 2012 outing, I would say that it’s a refinement of what made the last one so compelling. It’s even more ethereal, and it strikes me as (yet again) an album that is practically made for nocturnal musings. “Tethys” is lovely, yet slippery, with Kaufmann’s notes sometimes clustering, sometimes cascading, but never spoiling the listener with a straightforward progression. In many ways, the crystalline delicacy of his playing on this piece recalls Debussy’s compositions – impressionistic tonal swaths that are near-spectral in their lightness. The title track develops in more direct ways, but still maintains a heart of inscrutability; Weidner is endlessly expressive here, but he is also laconic – each note arises as if it were the last drop of water squeezed from a damp towel. This terse approach is shared by the rhythm section: Henning Sieverts plays with great economy, not often taking solos or busying up the compositions with undue complexities. Likewise, Samuel Rohrer has a soft touch – he plays just what is necessary to maintain the foundation of Weidner’s shadowy sound-world.

Christian Weidner01

As its title implies, “Weightless” is a sparse affair, and its success owes perhaps more to the vacuum between the notes than to the notes themselves. Although it stretches to seven minutes, it never loses its enchanting quality – like being stranded in the depths of space, watching the Earth move from marble-to-pea-to-speck, it’s enchantment of a somber sort, but enchantment nonetheless. “Dance Fantasm” is a quick antidote to the solemnity, injecting the album with a burst of primal energy. It’s only a burst, however, being soon replaced by the elegiac wails of Weidner’s alto on “In Memoriam.” In this piece, the other players are slow to appear, giving Weidner and Kaufmann an opportunity to show just how deep-seated that aforementioned simpatico truly is. When Sieverts and Rohrer do arrive, it’s not to tie a rhythm to Weidner and Kaufmann’s productions, but to accent them with sibilant splashes (in Rohrer’s case) and leaden lumps (in Sieverts’). The final piece, “As Long as Now,” finds the album closing in much the same way that it began – somberly.

Weidner’s compositions are pleasant, and they never veer off into the harsh, uncompromising landscapes that many other albums lumped under the “free jazz” label tend to do. For that reason, Every Hour of the Light and Dark might strike some listeners as overly safe. While my first couple of listens seemed to be leading me to that same opinion, it was with a few more that I started to see the complexities buried in these compositions – yes, they are (for the most part) calm, but there is a knotty, mystifying heart in the center of this album. As with any exceptional recording, it is in the untying of those tangled threads that we receive the greatest sense of fulfillment. (by Derek Stone)

BackCover1

Personnel:
Achim Kaufmann (piano)
Samuel Rohrer (drums)
Henning Sieverts (bass)
Christian Weidner (saxophone)

Inlets

Tracklist:
01. Tethys 5.01
02. Every Hour Of The Light And Dark 6.31
03. Fuzzy Membership 4.33
04. Weightless 7.07
05. Dance Fantasm 1.51
06. In Memoriam 8,12
07. Fairy Tales Friends 5.48
08. As Long As Now 4.29

Music: Christian Weidner

CD2

*
**

The official website:
Website

 

 

 

 

 

 


“Weidner is a musician with a very developed and finely focused artistic vision; an owner of a rare original voice.” (Dan MacCleaghan, All About Jazz)

Various Artists – A Very Special Christmas 2 (1992)

FrontCover1A very special Christmas compilation:

A Very Special Christmas 2 is the second in the A Very Special Christmas series of Christmas-themed compilation albums produced to benefit the Special Olympics. The album was released on October 20, 1992, and production was overseen by Jimmy Iovine, Vicki Iovine and Robert Sargent Shriver for A&M Records. Tupac Shakur was supposed to be featured on the album, but due to legal trouble his song was dropped.

On December 7, 2001, A Very Special Christmas 2 was certified Double Platinum for shipment of two million copies in the United States since its 1992 release.[1] As of November 2014, it is the 21st best-selling Christmas/holiday album in the United States during the SoundScan era of music sales tracking (March 1991 – present), having sold 2,200,000 copies according to SoundScan. (wikipedia)

Christmas01

The follow up to the original, this collection in many ways surpasses the initial effort. Duets seem to rule here, with Cyndi Lauper and Frank Sinatra double teaming on “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” while the irrepressible Ronnie Spector shares the mic with Darlene Love for a resplendent “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” and Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson give “Blue Christmas” a steamy and sizzling once-over. Vanessa Williams stops the disc, though, with her simple yet stunning rendition of “What Child Is This.” The then-sign-of-the-times inclusion, Michael Bolton, offers a forgettable “White Christmas,” but it’s the only real clunker in the bunch. Always just a tad too country to make it as a cross-over artist, Randy Travis still makes “Jingle Bell Rock” his own in his smooth way. (Steve Gdula)

The value of the “A Very Special Christmas” albums is at least partly to be found in the knowledge that the albums raise money for the eminently good cause of Special Olympics. Accordingly, one can feel good about buying this album, whether for others or for one’s own collection, knowing that the money is going in a socially positive direction, in the spirit of the Christmas season. The first album set the bar quite high, with exceptional contributions by U2, Bruce Springsteen, the Pretenders, John Mellencamp, and Bob Seger, among others, and the second album in the series, logically called “A Very Special Christmas 2,” generally holds up to the high standards set by its predecessor.

BookletBackCover1

The album starts off very well, with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Christmas All Over Again.” This energetic, cheerful song benefits from the manner in which the distinctive clang of Petty’s Rickenbacker guitar, particularly on the solo, takes on a bell-like sound that blends well with the bells in the background. (I’m not sure why Petty, heard sotto voce in the background at the end of the song, asks Santa for a new Rickenbacker; the old one sounds excellent.) This album dates from 1992, when Randy Travis was the king of country music, so it’s no surprise that he was asked to contribute his own version of “Jingle Bell Rock.” This Nashville-tinged version of the song is fine, if relatively conventional, and taking it up half a step at the end really doesn’t do much to change things.

I like Luther Vandross’s “The Christmas Song.” It has a mellow, optimistic feel, and really takes off when the saxophone comes in. Frank Sinatra and Cyndi Lauper then pair up for a retro-jazz-flavored rendition of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Both are in fine voice, though Cyndi almost sounds a bit star-struck in the presence of the man from Hoboken. I’m glad that Frank got the chance to contribute to one of these albums before his 1998 passing. Frank and Cyndi are followed by Boyz II Men’s “The Birth of Christ,” a smooth and atmospheric narrative song of Jesus’ birth, sung a-cappella with no accompaniment except for finger-snapping — stylish and effective.

Christmas02

Jon Bon Jovi, who seems to be a really good sport about contributing to lots of holiday albums (along with a wide range of other philanthropic activities as well), provides a fine rendition of Charles Brown’s “Please Come Home for Christmas,” with a nice guitar solo at the end. I’m partial to the Eagles’ version of this song myself, but JBJ does a good job here. Paul Young’s “What Christmas Means to Me” features upbeat delivery with a Motown sound. Aretha Franklin’s “O Christmas Tree” is slow, stately, and horn-based, and is also distinguished by a spoken-word interlude in which the Queen of Soul takes pains to remind us, “in our gift-giving and our merriment,” of “the real and true meaning of Christmas — the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” How you feel regarding Ms. Franklin’s exhortation may depend upon your own religious and philosophical beliefs. On a less serious note, Ronnie Spector and Darlene Love follow with a fine duet on “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” featuring a 1950’s sound and some lovely saxophone work. Ms. Love’s Christmastime performances on David Letterman’s late-night talk shows have been a holiday staple for many years now, and therefore her presence on this album is doubly welcome.

Christmas03

And then there is Michael Bolton’s “White Christmas.” What can I say? “Must…not…be…mean…” Mr. Bolton and his work have been so mercilessly savaged by so many critics for so many years that I do not feel inclined to pile on. Besides, doing so would *not* be in the holiday spirit. Therefore, I will simply say that Mr. Bolton’s rendition of this song is not to my taste, and leave it at that. It does sound like something that might have been sung on a 1960’s Christmas variety special — “Rowan and Martin’s Christmas,” “Sonny and Cher’s Christmas,” that sort of thing. If such is your musical inclination, perhaps you will enjoy it.

Run-D.M.C.’s fun and energetic “Christmas Is” reminds me that these hip-hop artists who got their start in the early 1980’s have shown a remarkable degree of staying power. “Give up the dough on Christmas, yo!” After that, Extreme, with “Christmas Time Again,” provides what might be termed a Christmas power ballad. With piano, church organ, and synthesizer being layered atop rich harmonies, it definitely has that big-hair 1980’s “wall of sound” quality, with the band’s request that the listener “pretend that it’ll last all year,” and a bit from “The First Noel” at the end.

Christmas04

I like Bonnie Raitt and Charles Brown’s “Merry Christmas Baby.” It unfolds slowly, with a fine bluesy quality. Both artists are in excellent voice and seem to be having fun, and blues piano and electric guitar provide effective supporting texture. And considering how many, many artists have covered this Charles Brown song, it’s great to hear Mr. Brown singing it himself. Tevin Campbell then offers a relatively gentle, muted, straightforward delivery of “O Holy Night,” something that I appreciate considering how many artists seem to treat this song as an excuse to indulge in high-register wailing until windows start to break.

Former teen-pop star Debbie Gibson’s “Sleigh Ride” has a definite Phil Spector Christmas-album sound to it. Vanessa Williams offers a clear and direct, slightly jazzy delivery of “What Child Is This?” Ann and Nancy Wilson then provide a fine, country-tinged rendition of “Blue Christmas” where piano and slide guitar work well together. I’m not sure why they didn’t call themselves Heart for this recording; was it that their usual backup musicians were not around, or were they concerned that Heart fans would expect a version of “Blue Christmas” that sounded like “Barracuda” or “Crazy on You”? Hard to say.

Christmas05

Just writing the name “Wilson Phillips” puts one back in the world of early-90’s pop. I wasn’t expecting much from their version of “Silent Night,” but it has clear harmonies and more of a rock-ish sound than I would have expected from Wilson Phillips; so, good for them. A real highlight of the album, for me, is its final song, Sinéad O’Connor’s “I Believe in You.” Recall that this album was released in the same year, even the same month (October 1992), in which O’Connor created controversy by tearing up a picture of Pope John Paul II on “Saturday Night Live” as a protest against sexual abuse within the Catholic Church; consequently, many listeners in the time of the album’s release may not exactly have been listening to it in the full Christmas spirit. That being said, I think O’Connor does a very fine job with this Bob Dylan song. The delivery of the song’s graceful melody is stark, simple, and honest — just O’Connor and a piano, with a clarinet coming in quietly at the end. There’s a fine quality of emotion in the way O’Connor delivers lines like “I believe in you, even though I’ll be outnumbered.” It’s a good way to end the album.

This album has more of a pop quality when compared with the original, more rock-oriented “A Very Special Christmas” from 1987. I’m more of a rock fan, and therefore I tend to like the first album better. Nonetheless, this album will sound fine in the background during your family’s future holiday celebrations, and it is comforting to know that the money goes to help people with intellectual disabilities — something much more important than whether I liked this song or didn’t like that song. (Paul Haspel)

BackCover1

Personnel:
see booklet

Booklet02A

Tracklist:
01. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Christmas All Over Again (Petty)  4.14
02. Randy Travis: Jingle Bell Rock (Beal/Boothe) 4.00
03. Luther Vandross: The Christmas Song (Tormé/Wells) 4.29
04. Frank Sinatra & Cyndi Lauper: Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (Coots/Gillespie) 2.36
05. Boyz II Men: The Birth Of Christ (Morris/Stockman) 2.49
06. Jon Bon Jovi: Please Come Home For Christmas (Brown/Redd) 2.52
07. Paul Young: What Christmas Means To Me (Gaye/Story/Gordy) 2.53
08. Aretha Franklin: O Christmas Tree (Anschütz) 3.34
09. Ronnie Spector & Darlene Love: Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree (Marks) 2.48
10. Michael Bolton: White Christmas (Berlin) 3.38
11. Run-D.M.C.: Christmas Is (Simmons/McDaniels) 3.19
12. Extreme: Christmas Time Again (Bettencourt/Cherone) 5.06
13. Charles Brown & Bonnie Raitt: Merry Christmas Baby (Baxter/Moore) 4.32
14. Tevin Campbell: O Holy Night (Adolphe/Adam/Dwight) 2.45
15. Debbie Gibson: Sleigh Ride (Anderson/Parish) 3.12
16. Vanessa Williams: What Child Is This? (Traditional) 4.09
17. Ann & Nancy Wilson: Blue Christmas (Hayes/Johnson) 3.48
18. Wilson Phillips: Silent Night (Mohr/Gruber) 3.03
19. Sinéad O’Connor: I Believe In You (Dylan) 5.38

CD1

*
**

Liner Notes