Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr – Upgraded in Gothenburg (2009)

Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr - Upgraded in Gothenburg (2009)
Artist: Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr
Album: Upgraded in Gothenburg
Genre: Contemporary Jazz
Origin: Germany
Released: 2009
Quality: mp3, 320 kbps
Tracklist:
Fade A Little (Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr) (04:24)
Geno The Shoeshine (Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr) (02:49)
Traveller’s Defense (Lars Danielsson) (04:13)
Airplanes In My Head (Herbert Grönemeyer) (04:12)
Ninni’s Dance (Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr) (03:21)
Dalodrum (Magnus Lindgren) (03:39)
Dusan (Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr) (03:58)
Not Strong Enough (Ida Sand) (03:45)
Trainwalk (Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr) (03:10)
Love (J. & R. Wasserfuhr) (04:44)
Song For E. (Lars Danielsson) (04:42)
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Jerome Kern) (05:56)
Toccata (Lalo Schifrin) (04:29)

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Twenty year old trumpet prodigy Julian Wasserfuhr is considered to be one of the brightest young stars on the German jazz scene. In 2006 the then teenage Julian and his pianist brother Roman (now twenty two) produced an acclaimed début CD for ACT “Remember Chet”, a homage to the late, great Chet Baker. The album attracted considerable critical acclaim and also came to the attention of ACT stalwart Nils Landgren. The Swedish trombonist invited them to record with him at his studio in Gothenburg and also arranged for the music to again be released on ACT thus bringing the talented brothers to the attention of the international jazz audience.

For the project producer Landgren called on some of the leading figures in European jazz, several of them members of the ACT roster. Forming a core quartet with the brothers are bassist/cellist Lars Danielsson and drummer Anders Kjellberg. Guest appearances come from Landgren himself on trombone, Magnus Lindgren on tenor sax and flute plus two vocal contributions from singer Ida Sand. The music is mainly comprised of material composed by the musicians involved alongside a couple of jazz standards plus a song by Austrian singer/songwriter Herbert Gronemeyer. It’s an interesting mix combining the traditional jazz virtues of Julian’s hero Baker with more contemporary and folk influences.

The album begins with the core quartet on the brothers’ “Fade A Little”. It’s pretty in Baker-ish fashion and features the warmly burnished tones of Julian’s trumpet, Danielsson’s rich bass undertow and Kjellberg’s delicately understated drumming. Roman is mainly content to remain in the background but reveals his talent with a lyrical piano solo in the middle of the piece.

Also by the brothers “Geno The Shoeshine” at a little under three minutes is like a truncated slice of an old Blue Note record. Here Julian sounds more like Freddie Hubbard and Roman responds in kind with some swinging piano. It’s all tantalisingly brief and it would have been nice to have heard more of the brothers in this mode. However this would sit at odds with the stated aim of the album to “purge the music and reveal the inner purity at it’s core” or “richness through reduction” as it has been described. Next time for the hard bop record perhaps?

However nowhere is this “less is more” approach better demonstrated than on Danielsson’s beautiful melody “Traveller’s Defense”, a piece that originally appeared on the bassist’s masterful solo album “Tarantella” (also ACT), a recording reviewed elsewhere on this site. This version rivals the original for beauty and features delightfully controlled performances from the core quartet plus Landgren on amazingly lyrical trombone.
Gronemeyer’s “Airplains In My Head” is a powerful song, given a soulful reading by vocalist Ida Sand. The main jazz input here is Julian’s breathy, idiosyncratic trumpet reminiscent now perhaps of another artist sometimes associated with ACT, the Norwegian Mathias Eick. The younger Wasserfuhr seems to have absorbed virtually every development of the jazz trumpet from bebop to the present.

“Ninni’s Dance” by the brothers has an attractive melody and features the Wasserfuhrs dovetailing beautifully. There’s also warm tenor sax from Lindgren making his first appearance.

Lindgren is also prominent, this time on flute, on his own tune “Dalodrum”. The piece has a folk tinge, reminiscent perhaps of the Middle East or the Balkans. Lindgren is the main instrumentalist here but there are lyrical contributions from both brothers.

The folk influence continues into the brothers’ “Dusan”, another piece with a Balkan feel. Danielsson unveils his quiet virtuosity here on an exquisitely articulated bass solo. Julian’s trumpet lines are nimble but understated, the whole thing underpinned by Kjellberg’s sympathetic hand drumming.
Sand’s “Not Strong Enough” is the second vocal item, a pretty, yearning pop song addressing the theme of lost love. It’s pleasantly sung by Sand and Julian takes a sparing, haunting solo using the mute. It’s all impeccably sung and played but ultimately rather slight.

The Wasserfuhrs’ “Trainwalk” is a return to the territory hinted at in “Geno” with both brothers taking powerful solos on one of the album’s more exuberant pieces.

“Love”, written by the brothers is the kind of pretty ballad the title suggests with Julian again sounding quite Baker-ish. Roman contributes one of his most lyrical solos of the set sympathetically supported by Danielsson and Kjellberg. The drummer’s playing is a model of taste and restraint throughout the album. His delicacy of touch is a major factor in the recording achieving it’s stated objectives. Danielsson, is of course, superb as usual and adds a typically tasteful solo here.

Danielsson’s “Song for E” pushes into more minimalistic territory with Julian again sounding a little like Eick (Danielsson’s collaborator on “Tarantella”) or even Arve Henriksen.

An unusual version of Jerome Kern’s “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” is taken at an exaggeratedly slow tempo and features beautifully mournful horns from Julian on trumpet and Nils Landgren on trombone. It’s superbly executed and ultimately wholly enjoyable.

The closing “Toccata” by Lalo Schifrin ends the album on an energetic note. All three horns are featured with Lindgren appearing on both tenor and flute. Roman’s insistent piano vamp underpins the piece and he also gets to solo alongside the horns.

“Upgraded In Gothenburg” covers an impressive range of musical territory although it’s very diversity leaves it sounding a little unfocussed at times. It’s all beautifully played and produced and there’s no doubting the potential of the Wasserfuhr brothers, particularly Julian who has the ability to become one of Europe’s leading trumpeters. The brothers from Huckeswagen near Cologne will have learnt much from working with experienced musicians such as Landgren and Danielsson. There is surely much more excellent music to come from them but this profile raising offering will do them no harm at all.
by Ian Mann

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