CD REVIEW: Michael Wollny Trio - Klangspuren

Michael Wollny Trio Klangspuren
(ACT6019-2, CD and DVD. Review by Jon Turney)

Michael Wollny’s 15 years with ACT have seen him progress from pianist of immense promise to a real star attraction. This unusual package deal fills out the picture of the state of his art for those who haven’t yet caught him live. Billed as a “collectors” (read limited) edition, it offers a DVD and CD from two different live shows.

Different how? The DVD comes from Leverkusen at the end of 2014, and offers a performance of the music from the brilliant CD Weltentraum. It was quite early in the tenure of bass player Christian Weber, whereas the studio set and the two subsequent Weltentraum live CDs ACT released in 2014 had featured Tim Lefebvre on bass.

The edition is so limited, as it happens, that I’ve not seen the DVD, so can only comment in detail on the new CD. That is different again, capturing a performance from November 2015, at the end of what by all accounts was a memorable German tour. It combines pieces from Weltentraum and from 2015’s Nachtfahrten release. That makes for a good mix, the nocturnes from the latter putting a little more space between the more intense episodes that give the earlier recording more heat.

Otherwise, it offers further proof, if needed, that Wollny has technique to do anything he can think of, and a musical imagination to match. He still favours two extremes – mid-tempo does occur, but he is more likely to be dwelling on a langorous, less-is-more, caressing of slow themes or racing to a volcanic crescendo. They seem less likely now to happen in the same number, although sometimes he can’t resist.

Up tempo, there’s never a dull moment. The ideas come fast, each new one almost tripping over the last. Alhough the pianist is in his late 30s now, the effect at times remains like overhearing a voluble youth holding forth at a cocktail party, raising a tingle of apprehension they are about to say something crass, but never quite doing it. Even the odd touch of bombast finds its place. The final portion of the rocking When the Sleeper Wakes goes up a notch here even from the exuberance of Weltentraum Live, sounding like Keith Jarrett channelling Keith Emerson. More than one moment like this would be an indulgence, but a Wollny gig would seem incomplete without it.The audience applaud wildly, then attend raptly to another limpid meditation on the achingly slow title tune from Nachtfarhten.

If you only want one live CD of Wollny’s recent work, I have a mild preference for the second complete Weltentraum live concert set on CD, which somehow fits together better. But this one is well worth having too, even if you aren’t collecting every note he records. As you get the DVD as well, you can enjoy making the comparison yourself.

Jon Turney writes about jazz, and other things, from Bristol.  Twitter: @jonWturney 

LINK: Review of Michael Wollny Trio at Cheltenham in 2014

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