"Six sensational compositions can be heard in this live concert, performed by an international company of nine musicians who hardly knew each other before the concert. But they perfectly capture the spirit and power of Mingus' music."Rootstime, 02-7-2022
The centenary of the birth of Charles Mingus, in April 2022, has served to reinforce his importance in twentieth-century music. His “achievements surpass in historic and stylistic breadth those of any other major figure in jazz.” (New Grove Dictionary). Mingus could be angry, even violent, but also loving and tender. All aspects of his complex character find expression in his music. It has a vast emotional palette and a unique way of expressing defiance and dissent.
One of the main events marking the centenary was a concert at the Philharmonie in Berlin on 13 April 2022 in the series curated by Siggi Loch. “Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic – Celebrating Mingus 100” is a live recording of six of the Mingus compositions from that concert. At one level, it was ‘just’ a concert. There were no protests. No basses or chairs were deliberately broken. Nobody took a shotgun and aimed it at a lightbulb. And yet, as is clear from this recording, each and every one of the nine musicians who appeared on stage at this concert – they had mostly not known each other before the project started – threw her or his entire musical essence into this concert, while staying true to Mingus’s spirit.
The first musical sounds heard on the album come from Austrian bassist Georg Breinschmid. One of the leaders, he juxtaposes forthright attack and caressing tenderness in the Mingus manner as his bass introduces Mingus’s “Jelly Roll”. The other leader is Swedish, Magnus Lindgren, mostly playing baritone sax here, with a joyful respect for Pepper Adams. French vocal star Camille Bertault has another antecedent in mind – Joni Mitchell – in setting words in her native language to the lament “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”. Two Americans are at the strong beating heart of the band: pianist Danny Grissett, a stalwart of the Mingus Big Band, and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, simply one of the greats. Two stellar musicians who have made Germany their home, Hungarian sax master Tony Lakatos and Australian-born trombonist Shannon Barnett both leave a fabulous impression here. The home team from Germany, trumpeter Matthias Schriefl and young star saxophonist Jakob Manz both play as if their very lives depend on it. Forget stereotypes of German order and discipline: this is utterly passionate music-making at a very high level. There can be few sounds as joyous as the exultant “Better Git It In Your Soul” which brings the recording to a close.
The Mingus Centenary has resonated deeply in 2022: just as injustice, fear and uncertainty surround us, so do instances of super-human kindness and visions of beauty. All these human emotions are present in Mingus’s music. Whereas Mingus’s ashes were entrusted to the River Ganges, his indomitable spirit truly came to life in an unforgettable concert in Berlin.
Magnus Lindgren is a multi-talented creator of music. His ability to express himself on the tenorsax, clarinet or flute wears the sign of a real master. However, he is also able to explore interesting music on several other instruments. Multi is a good expression of this gifted person. As a composer he has a great potential to fulfil his own creative impulses. He dresses them in a melodical costume, optimal for the stylish frame that is proper for the moment.
Last but certainly not least; the obvious masterclass in the musically versatile arsenal of Magnus Lindgren is his brilliant emotion for arranging music. The greatness lies in the way he puts together the sublime samples of notes, the sound colours, the rhythm figures, the harmony sequences.
All this in a truly organic way; no risk for overdoing. The final result brings a sence of dewfresh contemporary statement. If you on top of this add the natural gifted Magnus Lindgren´s ability to accommodate the subtle quality from a large range of musical genres; then the comparison with the musical titan Quincy Jones is obvious.
Therefore, it´s not surprising that Quincy is the mentor who Magnus admires the most, along with giants as Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. In Magnus way of looking at it, those three legends have had the guts to always look further into the universal world of music, even though they already had proven their greatness.
In the same manner Magnus works all the time to extend his musical frames, no matter if he deals with small jazz combos, big bands, choirs with instrumental soloist, intergration between classical orchestra and jazz group, swedish folklore, heavy funk rhythms, brazilian samba or african traditional music. Structures and genres are always given new dimensions, a certain amount of risks are included and the joy to participate is offered to everyone who has the opportunity to experience his enchanting efforts.
When Magnus Lindgren receives well earned honours for his various musicianship he responds with deep confession that his own thoughts on this matter truly is that he has just begun! He claims very prompt that music can vary a lot; the main thing is that it always must be worked out with a solid personality and total honesty.
In his early days, Magnus listened to big band jazz created by Buddy Rich; the melody was Mercy, Mercy, Mercy. With his own words; he was overwhelmed. The first LP he bought was the Michael Jackson album Thriller. It catched him totally. The fact that Quincy Jones had created the intensive dynamic and spectacular varied background for the legendary popicon was a logical summary for the taste of Magnus Lindgren.
All music must come from the bottom of your soul, according to Magnus Lindgren. Therefore, it´s logic that his cd-project from autumn 2013 is called Souls. In a furtile collaboration with the american bassplayer and producer Ira Coleman, Magnus has put together a nice couple of newly written originals. The disc with a certain club feeling and to some degree with old school technology was recorded in New York. The production Souls contents a spectacular group of international musicians, together with vocal artists with star glance. For example the Swedish singers Rigmor Gustafsson, Marie Fredriksson (from Roxette) and Anna Christoffersson. Souls can be considered as a manifest from Magnus Lindgren for his ability to make music with a broad musically spectrum, together with an open hearted attitude.
In Magnus Lindgren´s way of looking at it, the improvisational moment is the centre of the musical universe. The established jazz quartet offers generous possibilities to spread a creative flow. Magnus is steadily returning to that kind of chamber musicial cooperation. He proved it again in the cd-production Four, released 2012. The result gave lots of acclaimed media respons and also a Swedish Grammy nomination. The album Four consists of the world renowned bassplayer Palle Danielsson, the astonishing drummer Jonas Holgersson and Daniel Karlsson respectively Anke Helfrich, two pianoplayers with the ability to give a good back up with sublime expressions. The music is merely Magnus´ own compositions, completed with a colourful version of Michel Jackson´s I Just Can´t Stop Loving You.
"Jakob Manz will always surprise you," says pianist /keyboardist Roberto Di Gioia, who produced the 21-year-old's new album alongside Siggi Loch. "It is widely known that Jakob can play the saxophone unbelievably well, and also that he can take it in just about every conceivable direction in modern jazz. What is less appreciated is how authentic he sounds when he plays soul, funk and rhythm'n'blues. And just when you think you've heard everything from him, he will play you a blues solo so deep and soulful, it’s incredible." The release of Manz’s jazz-rock debut "Natural Energy" in 2020 gave a good pointer to his potential. That album was followed by headline appearances at important festivals: the Leverkusener Jazztage, Jazz Baltica, and also in the Porsche Arena in Stuttgart where he was a guest soloist at the "70 Years of the SWR Big Band" concert, and then at the ACT30 anniversary concerts in the Berlin Philharmonie. 2022 saw the release of the exquisitely crafted acoustic duo album "The Gallery Concerts I" with pianist Johanna Summer.This showed a different side of Jakob Manz, as an improviser of great depth and sensitivity.
Whereas Jakob Manz's debut album gave us a cross-section of his musical spectrum in all its breadth, "Groove Connection" offers a close-up of what are probably his greatest strengths: the ability to enthral and delight an audience with soulful melody, his incisive soloing and his infallible sense of rhythm. This very rare combination of qualities was the starting point for producers Roberto Di Gioia and Siggi Loch, to which they added a top international top line-up...so the sparks could really fly. Loch comments: "Jakob Manz is an unbelievable talent. For me he stands in the tradition of great saxophonists such as Lou Donaldson, David Sanborn (his hero) and also Klaus Doldinger and his band “Passport”. All of these are musicians who found their characteristic sound on a foundation of jazz, which they combined with soul and blues, and became successful worldwide with it."
The bar was deliberately set high for "Groove Connection", and right from the start. It should be an album of international standard, with musicians like Jakob Manz who penetrate the vocabulary of soul, jazz and rhythm'n'blues deeply and make them their own. Roberto Di Gioia, on keys and also a songwriter, was a shoo-in from the beginning – partly because of his history with Klaus Doldingers Passport and his current groove-jazz band "Web Web", and also because of his pop and soul sensibility as a producer of German Motown artist Joy Denalane and hugely popular rapper / singer Max Herre.
First choice to underpin the band from the bass was American Tim Lefebvre, another hero of Jakob Manz’s, an authority on his instrument and collaborator with artists as diverse as David Bowie, Wayne Krantz, Tedeschi Trucks Band and Michael Wollny. A stylish groove comes from the drums, and from the Swede Per Lindvall in particular. His range of credits includes membership of the first Nils Landgren Funk Unit, and also having been drummer for ABBA. Bruno Müller, one of the most sought-after German session guitarists, adds flavoursome funk. The Swedish trombonist Karin Hammar creates a gentler counterpart to Manz's brilliant alto saxophone. There are also guest appearances from guitarist Nguyên Lê, trumpeter Paolo Fresu and speaker Mark Harrington.
As soon as the members of Groove Connection met in the studio, everything clicked instantly. Roberto Di Gioia remembers: "We had everything perfectly prepared, including top-level bass equipment for Tim...who arrives, plugs his €500 no-label touring bass into the amp, starts to play a bit, then Per Lindvall joins in and immediately there’s something happening. That's when I had to shout into the control room that they should start recording immediately." The vibe of those first few minutes continues over the duration of the recording. Everything just flows, everyone seems to grasp subconsciously exactly what the music really needs, which notes to play - and which ones not to. In the end, one or two takes are sufficient for most of the tracks on the album. The fact that it all succeeds so seemingly effortlessly, and that the result sounds so light and unencumbered, but at the same time so rousing, is proof of the fabulous quality of all those involved in the recording. Everyone is at the top of his or her game, and, even more importantly, everyone has deeply internalised the vocabulary and the feeling of this music, there is real communication going on, and a lot of joy in the room. And that joy is audible to listeners from the very first bar - with a mixture of originals and groove-jazz versions of Adele, Billie Eilish, Whitney Houston, Lionel Richie...and many more.
There are very few young jazz musicians who master their instrument with such complete and daunting virtuosity as Jakob Manz, and yet his playing always sounds so unpretentious, clear, soulful and at the service of the tune - all at the same time. His success in doing this is due on the one hand to his talent and the determination with which he works on his musical expression. On the other hand, it is also due to his will to inspire and touch the emotions of the audience with his music. He says it is important to him that he should play his particular instrument, the alto saxophone, in a way that fills the room, but at the same time reaches each individual listener with directness and immediacy. And there is no doubt: he succeeds in this with flying colours, whether it's in a club, a large concert hall, a festival stage... or indeed wherever the listener might hear his new album.
Six sensational compositions can be heard in this live concert, performed by an international company of nine musicians who hardly knew each other before the concert. But they perfectly capture the spirit and power of Mingus' music.
... a respectful reading of the work and a testimony to a high quality evening.
Jazz Halo, 30-6-2022