Michael Wollny Trio


Format: CD
Label: ACT music
UPC: 0614427956323
Catnr: ACT 9563
Release date: 31 January 2014
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1 CD
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ACT music
Catalogue number
ACT 9563
Release date
31 January 2014

""His name is already mentioned in one breath with those of Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Stefano Bollani" "

Vera Vingerhoeds, 01-12-2014

About the album

Michael Wollny, best known as being one third of the thrillingly inventive young contemporary piano trio [em], is a musician who knows no boundaries in his search for new jazz ‘standards’. “Not a jazz standard in the traditional sense,” he points out but, “it also simply describes a song as a starting point that enables the musicians to grow a tune on top of it, a great melody and a few chords. In that respect I consider all of these tunes ‘standards’.”

Wollny‘s new trio recording Weltentraum is a stunning example of contemporary interpretation in the hands of a unique, fluidly virtuoso artist. Wollny, with both elegance and wit, explores the connection between songs that are worlds apart in terms of both centuries and cultures on Weltentraum. But in the pianist’s hands, the combination of interpretations of ‘God is a DJ’ by the riot girl power pop star Pink and the piece ‘Lasse!’ by Guiliaume de Machaut (the French Medieval composer and poet) gets to feel entirely natural. With the resourcefulness of a world class contemporary jazz improviser, Wollny finds common value in the songs’ starkly haunting melodies in spite of arriving from hugely diverse sources.

Says Wollny, “The basic idea for the whole album was to collect ‘songs’. At the very beginning Siggi Loch and I discussed the possibility of doing an album with ‘standards’ - not in the usual sense, but songs and music that I would consider "my" standards. this was the starting point. When I then started to think about the terms "standards" and "songs", I was looking for music, that really "sings" to me - melodies, that touched me, that were speaking to me. The first thing I realised was that I needed to look for music not so much in traditional jazz or contemporary pop and rock, but also in the "lied" and "kunstlied" tradition, which brought me to Alban Berg, Gustav Mahler, Paul Hindemith etc. Also at one point I really got into the idea of doing a ‘night’ album, so this is how David Lynch, Nietzsche and Charlie Kaufman suddenly were in there as well. Some of the themes that were important to me for this album: tonality and atonality; fragility and force, melodic purity, romantic totalism, endless melodies, dark abysses, angels, dream logic, light darkness, gothic beauty.” Welcome to the unique world of Michael Wolllny.

Yet Wollny is also a team player and the assembled trio consists of an important new voice. That’s the New York-based bassist and Wayne Krantz sideman Tim LeFevbre who has been a friend of Wollny’s since [em] played alongside his singular rock-fuelled band Rudder in 2011. “He got to know our music back then and when Eva [Kruse] decided to take some time off for maternity leave, Eric and I figured that Tim would be a natural choice, let alone being a dream come true,” says Wollny. “Tim is one of the most astonishing bass players out there”. They started gigging together as a trio in early 2013. “Tim is just full of ideas, finding counterpoints, taking initiative and of course he is the absolute groove master”. The latter especially gives a vigorously fresh rhythmic grounding to the album.
The other trio member is the drummer Eric Schaefer, Wollny’s regular partner in the internationally renowned [em] a piano trio formed in 2005. “It’s a very inspiring situation to have a trio with two members knowing each other for over 10 years and a third new member, so on the one hand there is all the musical confidence, experience and trust that Eric and me built up over the last decade. On the other hand there is this constant freshness from Tim, who is playing different from Eva [Kruse], therefore keeping us very awake, surprising us, opening new doors.”

Wollny, who’s playing was recently described by The Guardian’s John Fordham as “one of the most exciting recent developments in European jazz”, has built an international reputation with the trio [em], one of the most compelling pianists of the new European jazz scene in the millennium years. With their four albums to date on ACT, the trio has catapulted him to the limelight with a sublime imagination and ferocious technique that draws from his unique mixed heritage of classical, jazz and rock music. But he has also demonstrated a heartfelt intimacy in his duo partnerships over the previous decade: recording four times with luminary saxophonist Heinz Sauer (From Monk to Prince) as well as with pianist Joachim Kühn and Nils Landgren. 2009’s award winning collaboration with harpsichordist Tamar Halperin on Wunderkammer delivered a fresh dimension to his playing; these new dreamily ambient and sonic tone colours are reflected also on the new album Weltentraum. “When the album was recorded, we thought about a title for quite some time, because ‘songs’ or ‘my standards’ didn't feel right. Finally, Siggi Loch came up with Weltentraum (which is referring to a phrase by Gustav Mahler), and I immediately loved it. The idea of an album as a way of painting a picture of the world with a utopian force and the fragility of a phantastic dream.”

Although consisting of just one vocal track - Pink’s ‘God is a DJ’ features the vocalist Theo Bleckmann - words are of utmost significance to Wollny’s music. “I don't think it's possible to separate lyrics from songs. I've always been very interested in words and language,” he says. “After all, poetry and literature is simply composition with words. Since we are an instrumental band the only way to employ this aspect is through titles and liner notes; so I wanted the "words" on the album to be simple, utopian, naive, surreal, dark, all at the same time. No concepts, no analysis, no description, no political statements, no definitions, but poetry.”
In spite of being a romantically lyrical virtuoso, Wollny’s subtly investigative approach to improvisation always steers him away from the overly sentimental. What essentially draws Wollny to the fascinating selection of material on Weltentraum is, he says, an endless love of melodies. “Simplicity as space that allows the trio to grow stuff on top of it,” Wollny calls it. “These are simple resonances that lay the ground for complex improv.”


Michael Wollny, born in 1978 in Schweinfurt, internationally successful jazz pianist, music inventor, unconventional thinker, popular figure. Nobody plays piano like him. His trademark: the unpredictable, the quest for the never-before-heard, the courage to devote himself to the moment, to make the unforeseen sound self-evident. His desire to keep reinventing himself, both in terms of sound and composition; that is what makes him a "consummate piano maestro" (FAZ). Ever since his ACT debut in 2005 "call it [em]", Michael Wollny has been causing a furore in the widest range of projects:

With his contribution to the ACT series Piano Works, Michael Wollny proves that he is one of the most noteworthy pianists in the world: For his solo debut he withdrew to the Island of Gotland for a month in the summer of 2006 and listened to a lot of Schubert, Steve Reich, Björk and Joachim Kühn. Then he performed alone on the grand piano at the JazzBaltica for the first time, alongside colleagues like Brad Mehldau, Marcin Wasilewski and Kenny Barron – and at the end of February 2007 he brought out Hexentanz. The critics all agreed in rare unison: "Wollny is the great hope of intelligent piano jazz from Germany." (WELT) For this work Wollny was also awarded the Disque d'emoi 2007 by the French Jazz Magazine.

The "grand master of the saxophone" (DIE ZEIT) Heinz Sauer discovered Michael Wollny for the first time at the hr Jazz Ensemble. The two performed for the first time as a duet in Darmstadt's Literaturhaus, more or less by chance. Without time to discuss the performance in advance, they had to revert to free improvisation. The evening was a rousing success and had consequences. "One of the great saxophone individualists and the greatest German piano talent develop fascinating dialogues full of unsentimental warmth, with often surprising punch lines. You want to keep listening to them forever," wrote the Munich newspaper TZ, when in early 2005 their first joint album came out: Melancholia. DIE ZEIT discovered fundamental qualities in the genuine expressiveness of this generation-crossing duo, and exalted: "Jazz comes back to life here". The WELT am Sonntag paper counted it among "the best that German jazz has to offer". "Give up the control and see what happens" is how Wollny describes the credo of playing together with Sauer, the credo that provides the foundation for their improvisations created out of ease and serenity, just as much as for the explorations of their own compositions that they present to each other - or the paths they take through classics by Thelonious Monk and Billie Holiday. And in doing so they extended their radius at breakneck speed: On Certain Beauty the base camps of their expeditions bear names like Gershwin, Gil Evans, Björk and Prince. The album caused quite a stir, also outside of Germany. In France, the renowned magazine Jazzman called it the jazz CD of 2006, awarding it the CHOC. The highly concentrated dialogues don't waste any words; the melancholy attitude comes from profound experience of life. If (Blue) Then (Blue) is the name of the follow-up album, which showcases Heinz Sauer in two duets: alternating between the pianists Michael Wollny and Joachim Kühn. "Quite simply a master stroke!" is how the magazine Stereoplay described it. The duo's fourth album Don't Explain came out on Sauer's 80th birthday – recorded live in Darmstadt. It is a musical tight-rope act without a net, that the French Jazz Magazine crowned its Album of the Year. The German jazz critics acknowledged the recording with the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik award.
In September 2008, Wollny joined forces in a duet concert with Joachim Kühn at the ACT festival "Jazz and Friendship" at Elmau Castle. The result of this intense, pinnacle piano moment is captured on the CD Piano Works IX: Joachim Kühn und Michael Wollny live at Schloss Elmau, which came out in March 2009.
Michael Wollny's Wunderkammer in a duet with harpsichordist Tamar Halperin was the launching pad into a new era of Michael Wollny's career in late 2009. On it, together with harpsichordist Tamar Halperin, Wollny seeks out the never-before-heard and embarks on a magical sound trip. The pianist, who repeatedly manages to surprise his listeners and himself with his music, was subsequently raised to the peak of European jazz, being awarded the coveted ECHO Jazz for the best German pianist. The newspaper die Welt spoke of "Germany's most exciting jazz pianist," the Frankfurter Rundschau attested Wollny a "big step forward in a totally new direction", and since then the Hamburger Abendblatt has seen in him the "biggest (jazz) music personality that Germany has produced since Albert Mangelsdorff".

Ever since the beginning of his career, the centre of Michael Wollny's creation has been his trio [em], with Eva Kruse on the bass and drummer Eric Schaefer. The success story of this magical triangle began with call it [em] in 2005, within the framework of the ACT Young German Jazz series. The trio's secret: the unique combination of outstanding technique and individual skills, inexhaustible creativity and instinctive interaction. "Wollny, Kruse and Schaefer save German jazz" said the Süddeutsche Zeitung back then, and die Zeit even spoke of the "world's most exciting piano trio". With the follow-up albums [em] II and [em] 3 the trio advanced to the embodiment of young German jazz. The accolades from various magazines (including the "Choc" from the French Jazzman) were followed by awards like Ronnie Scott's Jazz Award and the BMW Welt Jazz Award. With [em] live at JazzBaltica hitting the shelves in autumn 2010, the unconventional trio irrevocably played itself to the global peak of piano trios with, as the FAZ newspaper put it, its "irrepressibly vital interactive music". England's leading critic Stuart Nicholson called the album "...arguably the finest jazz album of the last quarter of a century". And the German music association Bundesverband Musikindustrie honoured the masterpiece with the ECHO Jazz for the best national ensemble performance of the year.

Wasted & Wanted came out in early 2012 and was the last trio album by Michael Wollny's [em] to date. Just how unrivalled this dream team currently is in the German jazz scene is proven by its winning the ECHO Jazz award for the best national ensemble performance of the year again. Powerful, modern, emotional, intelligent, masterly, full of energy and open in every direction – Wasted & Wanted is a conclusive answer to the question of the future of German jazz.

Wunderkammer XXL with the hr-Bigband: To this day, Wunderkammer has never let go of its hold on Michael Wollny. On 27 October 2012, the Deutsches Jazzfestival Frankfurt gave him the opportunity to live out a dream on a giant scale together with the hr-Bigband. Arranger Jörg-Achim Keller took over the big band orchestration. The concert in the hr broadcasting hall was to become a triumphant event: "Wunderkammer XXL" sounded "impressively different in the subtly differentiated orchestra arrangement" and resulted in "a fascinating interplay between gentle keyboard magic and inspired ensembles" (Frankfurter Rundschau). The FAZ wrote of "an irrepressible joy of playing and an intelligent creative power," that the "ingenious sound tinkerer Michael Wollny" fashioned together with the hr-Bigband under Jim McNeely. The concert provoked veritable storms of enthusiasm among the audience: 20-minute standing ovations were something entirely new to the oldest German jazz festival, in existence since 1953.

On 11 December 2012, Michael Wollny took the stage together with Iiro Rantala and Leszek Możdżer in the sold-out Kammermusiksaal concert hall of the Berlin Philharmonic. The three pianists impressively proved that classic and jazz are anything but contradictory. The recording of this acclaimed concert came out at the end of March 2013 as Live at Berlin Philharmonic I. On it, Wollny can be heard solo, in duets with the other two pianists, and in the finale even in a trio with both of them.
The fact that Wollny is now also a popular sideman who knows just how to lend music magical moments and whip audiences into raptures without playing himself into the foreground can be heard on The Moon, The Stars And You by Nils Landgren and Thrill Box by the young French accordion star Vincent Peirani. "Listening to how Landgren's trombone and Michael Wollny's piano [...] caress the melodies, you can't help but be spellbound by the charm of this music," wrote der Stern about the first of the two albums. And die Welt called Thrill Box the "tentative quest for contrapuntal beauty and exceptionally lyrical music with which the Frenchman touches the heart and steals your breath away, accompanied by pianist Michael Wollny and bassist Michel Benita."


"His name is already mentioned in one breath with those of Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Herbie Hancock, Stefano Bollani" 
Vera Vingerhoeds, 01-12-2014

The album "Weltentraum" is a continuation of the substantive tradition of Song in a fresh, contemporary jazz context.
Jazzenzo, 24-4-2014

Focus, 01-4-2014

 It's the kind of adventurous, slightly tongue-in-cheek interpretation that makes Wollny such a joy—and makesWeltentraum such an exciting and constantly rewarding album.
all about jazz, 19-2-2014

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