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Hold Your Fire

Edward Partyka

Label: Neuklang Records
Released: 2023
Duration: 00:38:05
Views: 1,670

Tracks

Hold Your Fire; I'm Not Runnung Away; Isabelle; I Told Jesus; Dead Man.

Personnel

Edward Partyka
composer / conductor
Oliver Leicht
clarinet
Floriach Trübsbach
saxophone, alto
Nils Fischer
saxophone
Florian Leuschner
saxophone, baritone
Felix Meyer
trumpet
Benny Brown
trumpet
Linus Bernoulli
french horn
Simon Harrer
trombone
Lukas Wyss
trombone
Robert Hedemann
trombone, bass
Jan Schreiner
trombone, bass

Album Description

Ed Partyka and Julia Oschewsky make music that is original and unique. To wit: Is there another vocalist who writes deep, probing, singable songs about life and love arranged for a thoroughly modern, 18-piece jazz ensemble with a beefed low end of tuba, bass trombone, baritone saxophone and contrabass clarinet? I don’t think so. (And if there is, will you let me know?)

As fans are aware, Hold Your Fire is their fourth album, preceded by two other recordings as co-leaders, Hits (2014) and Kopfkino (2017), and Partyka’s In the Tradition (2018), which featured Oschewsky on two tracks. Their musical acquaintance goes back to 2008, when Julia played in the German National Youth Jazz Orchestra, BuJazzO, which Partyka conducted. When Julia sang Tom Waits’ “Time,” Ed was knocked out. “She sang it so great, I put a little mental check mark next to her name,” he recalled. “When my vocalist left the band in 2012, the first person I thought of was Julia.”

They’ve been collaborating ever since.

Partyka, who plays bass trombone and tuba as well as leading his own band, moved to Germany from his native Chicago in 1990 and never went back. He heads the UMO Helsinki Jazz Orchestra and the Zurich Jazz Orchestra and also teaches at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria. Oschewsky hails from Bingen, Germany and spent more than a decade on the Amsterdam scene before returning to Bingen in 2017. She counts Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt as major influences, released an album of her own songs, Inner Game, in 2009, and for many years toured in the duo Kleingartenanlage.

The program on their new album includes three originals by Oschewsky – the complexly woven jazz/rocker, “Hold Your Fire,” which builds to a dramatic, roiling climax; the light and teasingly catchy inquiry, “Isabelle”; and a gorgeously sculpted hymn without rhythm section, “Dead Man” – plus Leslie Feist’s probing rocker, “I’m Not Running Away” and the bluesy gospel piece, “I Told Jesus.”

Partyka’s approach to these songs is nothing like that of a traditional jazz big band, but more like a versatile, brass-heavy chamber ensemble that swings when it feels like it. With healthy inspiration from his main mentor, Bob Brookmeyer (as well as some early influence from Stan Kenton), Partyka blends brass and reeds in stunning new ways. Take the passage about three quarters the way through the title track, where everything suddenly quiets down and the piano plays a clanging figure like a tolling tower clock and a four-note figure starts answering the piano. When you hear it, you might reasonably wonder what is making that sound. It's low, kind of scratchy, but hard to pin down. Turns out it’s two baritone saxophones, bowed bass and piano. Partyka said he’d never used that particular combination before, but that he’s always looking new ways to combine horns. On “I’m Not Running Away,” which opens with a gorgeous brass chorale, he finds the perfect acoustic counterpart for the distorted electric guitar on Feist’s original: two alto saxes, trumpet, French horn, trombone and piano, squnched into a dissonant, staccato five-note tattoo.

Partyka doesn’t just find new timbres. He breaks the band up into unusual subgroups that cut across section lines then has them toss themes back and forth, braiding them with the skill of a jazz-drunk descendant of J.S. Bach. On “Isabelle,” three soprano saxes, two trumpets and two trombones dance with bass trombone, tuba, bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet. On “I Told Jesus” two clarinets and two bass clarinets chat with three trombones and bass trombone. You get the idea.

All of this is carefully worked out, of course. But sometimes, happy accidents happen. On “I Told Jesus” Malte Schiller is playing an exceptionally soulful tenor saxophone solo when suddenly the trombones drop out of the densely-voiced background figure beneath him, leaving only clarinets and trumpets. The effect is like someone throwing open a window in a dark room. Genius! Turns out the reason Partyka had the trombones drop out was that they needed a rest.

“I wanted them to play on the last chorus so I had to give them a few measures where they could get the horns off their faces,” he said, laughing. “It was one of those little coincidences.”

Felix culpa, I think the Romans called it.

Just like Partyka meeting Oschewsky 14 years ago. Her memorable melodies, light touch, straightforward delivery and thoughtful lyrics work hand in glove with Partyka’s writing. It’s remarkable how they never lose continuity, even when the band develops a piece for extended periods (with Oschewsky sometimes singing wordless vocals). “Hold Your Fire” is a deep, dark dive into consciousness, using timely war metaphors to speak of conquering fears within ourselves.

“Ed succeeded in teasing out the colors,” she said. “I love this arrangement. It is strong and vast and massive.” It also features a long, wonderful solo by trombonist Simon Harrer. Like the opener, Feist’s “I’m Not Running Away” also deals with facing fears, but in this case of love itself. Tobias Weidinger’s muted trumpet solo brings out just the right feeling of interiority, and reverbed trumpets amp the tension.

“Isabelle” might be my favorite track, as Oschewsky wonders in an almost child-like voice whether it might be better to be a statue, like the one she could see across the Rhine, growing up. It’s an earworm of a melody, and Oschewsky fetchingly overdubs harmony on her line. Trumpeter Benny Brown takes solo honors, alternately caressing and racing with the melody.

Oschewsky said she was a little uncertain at first about singing a gospel ballad, thinking her voice might be too “mild” for the material. But she makes “I Told Jesus” believable and very much her own. Julia is a longtime practitioner of yoga, so contrary to what you might think, “Dead Man” isn’t a hymn about someone who has passed on, it’s actually a meditation on the freedom one can find in the in the “Dead Man” yoga pose! “I’m just going to ignore that,” said Partyka, laughing again. “And I know this sounds macabre, but I think it would be a great song to have played at my funeral.”

Well, let’s not think about that just yet. Ed and Julia have a lot more ground to cover before they’re finished. And it’s a good bet no one is going to show up before then who can do what they do so well together.


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Last Dance

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Album uploaded by Michael Ricci

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Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Hold Your Fire

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