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ClassicsOnline Home » FLORIAN ROSS QUINTET: Seasons and Places
The Jazz Report
By Don Williamson
"Many American jazz musicians who spend time collaborating with European counterparts invariably state that some of the most challenging and innovative jazz emanates from outside of the United States. Those musicians should be in a position to know. And a cursory review of what's happening in the U.S., what with retreads and reinventions of Ellington and Monk, gives support to the argument about invention coming from other countries besides the one where jazz arose.
That's not entirely a true statement when listeners accept the new languages and explorations of musicians like Ben Allison, Don Byron, Uri Caine or Dave Douglas. But the point is not diminished that much of the extensions of jazz composition and improvisation comes from overseas.
Such is the case with Florian Ross' quintet. "Seasons and Places" is the first CD released with Ross as a leader, and it has to be one of last year's most outstanding premiere jazz CD's. Unfortunately, it may remain undiscovered because of limited U.S. distribution and weak name recognition.
Ross proves himself to be not only a strong presence on each of the tunes, but also his compositional skills are admired by none other than the respected Jim McNeely in the well-written liner notes. With Ross' experiments in time signatures and harmonic advances, we find a group more in tune with some of the more explorative Wayne Shorter/Herbie Hancock work than any others that may come to mind. Indeed tenor saxophonist Matthias Erlewein adopts a tone and method of intervallic placement that's reminiscent of Shorter's language of his Blue Note heyday. And Ross offers a dynamic musical sensibility even when he accompanies his hornmen, for example merely moving the modulations along with half-noted, dense chords.
With several awards and experience arranging for European big bands behind him, Ross has chosen to present his quintet in the middle range with the assistance of tenor sax and trombone. In that respect, his group is similar in darkness and timbre to Dave Holland's. Exhibiting a range of moods, from the rapid-fire "Clapham Junction" to the meditative "Winteraire," Ross has put together an excellent CD, consisting as it does of excellent musicians, all deserving much wider recognition.The impressionistic and unpredictable "Seasons and Places" is highly recommended for listeners who appreciate unconventional approaches to composition and a high level of improvisational complexity."
Eastern Daily Press
"This may be Ross's debut recording but it has all the assurance of a veteran"
Florian Ross is a rare natural composer and a gifted pianist whose invention and playing I have a great admiration for. Since we met in Cologne six years ago, I've always been struck by his resourcefulness - he's constantly full of new ideas with an energy to match.
Here on his debut recording, he has assembled a group of exciting improvisers whose playing demonstrates a level of musicianship and maturity that belies their years. The variety of texture and colour are a delight - the spontaneity and interaction are a pleasure to hear and demand one's attention. As all listeners who are deeply interested in the development of young improvising and composing talent today, I look forward very much to Florian's future.
John Taylor, Ashford, July 1998.
The tradition of the pianist/composer/bandleader in jazz goes all the way back to Jelly Roll Morton. Considered the first true composer in the music, he was also the first to blend these three roles into one - jazz's version of l'auteur in cinema. This triple function continues throughout the history of jazz, especially in the post-war era, with figures like Thelonious Monk, Horace Silver, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner.
And now I am pleased to introduce you to Florian Ross. On one hand he is a descendant of these great musicians. On the other hand he has developed his own distinctive view of all three roles he plays in this recording. As a pianist he has studied at the Cologne conservatoire with John Taylor, and has won several awards in Germany - he is an inventive improviser. Equally as important he is an effective accompanist for the other soloists, As a composer, Florian is one of the most imaginative I've heard in a long time. He has won a number of composition prizes, including the BBC Big Band Composition Award (1996) and the International Composition Award Monaco (1997).
He has already written for large ensembles like the Metropole Orchestra (Hilversum) and the Brussels Jazz Orchestra. He's written for theatres and short films and early 1998 saw the premiere of his Suite for Soprano Sax and String Orchestra featuring David Liebman. For this quintet recording he has chosen a combination of tenor sax and trombone. Normally this affords a darker (and possibly more limited) pallette than combinations of saxophone and trumpet: yet Florian has found a wonderfully wide range of colours and textures for these two horns. He also explores different forms to get away from the standard "theme-solos-theme" tradition of small group Jazz. In short this album represents state-of-the-art small group writing.
One of the primary tasks of a bandleader is to choose the players who will best breathe life into your music. Here Florian has assembled a superb cast - these musicians come out of a variety of post-bebop traditions, but they put their own slant on things,
Tenor saxophonist Matthias Erlewein begins with the framework of Stan Getz and mid-60's Wayne Shorter, and goes from there; he has a very distinctive voice on the tenor, the likes of which we don't hear in many young saxophonists. He's already performed with a large list of great leaders including Bob Brookmeyer, John Scofield, John Marshall, Klaus St
Trombonist Nils Wogram has a big, rich tone and a big range - he is an adventurous player both harmonically and melodically. He has already released three CDs under his own name, with Kenny Werner and Simon Nabotov. He's won the Frank Rosolino Scholarship (USA) and the
Bassist Dietmar Fuhr really propels the rhythm section with his tone and bouyant walking; there's a lot of "skin" in his sound. He is perfectly suited for the variety of roles the bass has to play in this music: traditional bass, soloist, and independent melodic voice. Also a product of the Cologne Conservatoire, Dietmar has recorded with a number of leaders including Achim Kauflmann, Joachim K
By Any Means Necessary is a reduction of a big band piece Florian wrote for the BBC Big Band. The tenor and trombone voices blend beautifully in their low registers (along with the bass) on head. Here Matthias Erlewein demonstrates his ability to build a solo from very sparse beginnings.
Florian started to write a 12-bar blues, but ended up with Blues, a 32-bar tune. It still has the feeling of the blues. It starts with a free, pointillistic introduction which leads into a Gershwinesque piano vamp. In contrast to the first piece, here there is effective use of high register tenor/trombone playing the haunting melody in unison. I especially like the broken rhythm section accompaniment behind the tenor and drum solos.
Florian describes Let Me Do It (Not you) as "sort of a 12-tone tune" not limited to the row. It begins with ensemble statements punctuated by piano solo statements. We hear solos from trombone and drums.
Ology Elegy/ Neck-Tied is actually two tunes which started as separate tunes, but as Florian put it "whenever we played them I felt that they belong together". Ology Elegy is in 7 with beautiful horn writing; the trombone is above the tenor. Nils makes a powerful statement on trombone. A tenor solo over a rubato section connects into Neck-Tied. This second part is in 6, and functions almost as an extended coda to the first tune.
Sea Greene shifts from lyrical 3 to a broken Latin groove. It gives Florian a chance to explore the rich harmonic possibilities of this tune; a succinct bass solo leads back into the final statement of the theme. The Latin vamp comes back at the end to support a brief drum solo.
Regarding In Case You Haven't Heard Florian says: "I really like Latin tunes that don't sound like Latin tunes". It has a very lyrical open kind of Latin feeling, punctuated with figures in the rhythm section. Matthias Erlewein demonstrates his ability to combine his airy sound and lyricism with energy and passion to build a beautiful statement.
Clapham Junction has shifting meters in the head and an interesting solo form including
The beautifully lyrical Winteraire is dedicated to English pianist and composer John Taylor. The only soloist is bassist Dietmar Fuhr who begins and ends the piece with brooding, introspective solo statements.
Rondo #3 is a through-composed piece for the quintet. It is in rondo form. It affords the freedom to explore a number of different "rooms in the house" while always returning to the unifying
Finally Hymnus (for a Sailor) sounds like what the title implies: a hymn, with lyrical piano commentary.
The writing, soloing and ensemble playing all come together to make this recording a very strong statement from Florian and his supporting cast. While listening I found myself repeatedly asking one of the most important questions for a listener: "What's going to happen next?" This music is constantly engaging, full of surprises. Yet none of the twists and turns are done merely for the sake of novelty; the music flows from one texture or groove into another, pulling the listener along.
It's great music that is also interesting to listen to.
Well, I've said enough. Now there is only one more thing to say: "When is the next album?"
Jim McNeely, 17th July, 1998, Pori, Finland
About the musicians
Studied at the Cologne Conservatoire with John Taylor; won the 1987 Young Jazz Award Baden-Wttemberg, 1993 Jazz Piano Award of the Cologne Conservatoire, the 1996 BBC Big Band Composition Award, London, the 1997 Intemational Composition Award Monaco, the 1997 Hannover Jazz Competition; wrote for ensembles like the Metropole Orchestra, Hilversum, the Brussels Jazz Orchestra, Dejan Terciz Sunday Night Orchestra, Vancouver Jazz Orchestra, also various compositions for theatres, short films; world-premiere of the uite for Soprano-Sax and String Orchestra" feat. David Liebman early in 1998. In the same year he won the HR-Big Band Composition Award.
Matthias Erlewein (ts)
Played in the bands of Bob Brookmeyer, John Scofield, John Marshall and Klaus St飆ter; Worked in the ensembles of Bill Dobbins, Maria Schneider, John Marshall, WDR, SDR; also played with Ngu瘽 Lê and John Abercrombie in his own group - won the 1997 Blue Note Jazz Search and recorded for Blue Note in New York City.
Nils Wogram (trb)
Released three CD's under his own name with Kenny Werner and Simon Nabatov. Touring with Underkarl, Jazzkantine, De 8 Baan; played on the Berlin, Moers and Viersen Jazzfestivals; won the Frank Rosoline Scholarship (USA) and the ulturpreis des Landes NRW" received the WR Jazzpreis" and is regarded the new, young rombone-voice" of Europe.
Dietmar Fuhr (b)
Studied Bass at the Cologne Conservatoire, played with Brad Schoeppach, Owen Howard, Danny Gottlieb, Vic Juris, the Brussels Jazz-Orchestra, WDR, HR; several CD-recordings with Achim Kauffmann, Joachim Kn, Frank Reinshagen, Norbert Scholly.
Jochen Ruckert (dr)
Studied at the Cologne Conservatoire and with Bill Stewart and Jeff Tain Watts; played with Kenny Werner, Ack van Rooyen, Tony Luyan, Franco Ambrosetti, Peter Weniger, John Abercrombie, Chris Potter, Ngu瘽 Lê; worked for all German Public Radio Orchestras and television.
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FLORIAN ROSS QUINTET: Seasons and Places