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Johannes Berauer: Vienna Chamber Diaries plus Strings

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Johannes Berauer: Vienna Chamber Diaries plus Strings
Johannes Berauer's album, Vienna Chamber Diaries plus Strings on Basho Records, is a jewel of emotional weathering to illuminate hearts after an unexpected and extended era of sadness.

Berauer is a modern thinking, cross-over, chamber jazz Jedi. Perfecting the placement of elegant, exciting, heart easing, and harmonising in nine arrangements of exacting and uplifting joy, The Vienna Chamber Diaries plus Strings are a rollercoaster of gentle impulses and elation. The assembly of soloists is prescient, assured and propulsive. In agreement with guitarist (and the ensemble's patron), Wolfgang Muthspiel, this is music that must be heard.

The ensemble has a similar dexterity, intelligence and spoofy wit that calls to mind the romantic charms of the late Gallic greats, Jacques Loussier, Eddy Louiss, Didier Lockwood and their élan, with an equally palpable and genial sense of bonding and warmth. Is there a tag for "popular, easy listening, feel good, chamber jazz"?

"New Horizons" a recent Song of the Day, begins as an intro score for a dramatic dawning, full of hope and realizing potential. It delivers a believable sense of newness and something to run to. A sweet accordion introduces a full suite of strings against a current of percussion, jumping guitar, thudding bass and ticking piano flowing urgently underneath a floating Klaus Gesing, who rocks the soprano sax with the same crystalline, free-spiritedness as Bill Evans (saxophone), the likeness is uncanny, timeless and welcome. Angular bass and automotive piano restlessly duck and dive with guitar dialogue, horn alarms, and crescendo strings drama to complete the journey.

"Just Another Pop Song," would be fantastic if it were a pop song, and possibly somewhere in London it may well be, played alongside Stormzy's bangers, and surpassing them completely, just because, you know, life, special. There are idyllic modes akin to Kind of Blue within "Just Another Pop Song," transcendent moments of mellifluous beauty to dilute the bitterness of life, moments to forget the despot and all maniac cruelties; Gesing is exultant. Berauer reminds us of beauty in 2022, recalled unfailingly on multiple listening.

"Divertimento in Blue Part 1" begins with a little klezmer swirl, some jaunty accordion and some Dave Grusin-like blues stylings inspired by Michael Gibbs, there's almost a Didgeridoo in there. Generous cool creeping, lots of lulls and sighs from violin and guitar, and fun percussive Kanjira (South Indian frame drum) sounds from Bernhard Schimpelsberger.

"Divertimento in Blue Part 2" initiates a lovely piston like string intro, paralleling Béla Bartók's Allegro Non Troppo intro to "Divertimento for Strings." Beraurer's score continues with insistent bass fillips, rolling violins, clever, complementing drums and a steal by piano. Violins return, solo swooning, caressing drums, yearning to the nth histrionic and then guitar and violin resolve the swoon like George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," and the big foot bass returns. Yup, fun to get into it.

Gesing on bass clarinet on "Florentin" is a complete contrast to his soprano sax voice, plummy rich, and a perfect partner to Christian Bakanic 's dreamy accordion. Followed by a perfect place for Gwilym Simcock to inject some Herbie Hancock/Keith Jarrett inflections for added cloud gazing.

Violinist Johannes Dickbauer bends all heart strings and shines light in the shade. In combination with cellist Florian Eggner they are a truly comprehensive and powerful combo and refract the orchestral prism in full (the full 'plus Strings' is a 9 piece ensemble).

"Far Side of the Moon," the longest of all tracks, is a fizz with enquiry, danger and emergency."Valse Bleue," is a longing heartbreaker, with a most keening violin solo, and a sustaining piano pattern, empathic bass and a {Taylor Eigsti}/{Eldar} feel piano outro, with a nod to the ascendant Vaughan Williams in the final call of the violin ending.

"Home" is a beautifully crisp moment of ECMness, warm evening hues shimmering, and mirages refocussing...with a frisson of Frissellian freshness courtesy of Muthspiel's diversity, and that soprano sax interlude makes wishes for an Adjustment Bureau II, endless rippling and tingling. Eastern tinges, beautiful drums and Muthspiel plus strings collect for a spoofy "Blackbird" riff with poetic enunciation, as if John Lennon and Paul McCartney were showing off their Johann Sebastian Bach again. Wolfgang Muthspiel has mercurial attenuation to a panel of human sensitivities that deserve to be shared by all. (Muthspiel's album Angular Blues, with bassist Scott Colley and Brian Blade on drums is a gem too).

On "Indian Summer" a different tone is set with Berauer's Tunisian influences, an entwining of melancholy and desire perfectly encapsulated by Klaus Gesing's solo, and a reflection of a past cultural exchange between Berauer and Anouar Brahem. An engaging bass solo from Yuri Goloubev is graceful, melodic and tender (also worth checking out his album Two Chevrons). Remarkably there are no drum or percussive voices, despite the striking movement of the song.

A distinctive, elevated set of musical stories that provide a palette of support for these uncertain times. Johannes Berauer has mastered the art of scene setting, and selecting the most pleasing musical elements to fulfil his vision, Vienna Chamber Diaries plus Strings, as a team that dissolve an orchestral offer into a chamber ensemble deserves to be an ongoing boxset.

Reviewer footnote re: These Uranium times and Universal Understanding/Sensitivity to Ukraine

Twitter is an unremarkable achievement of the many for the few, but to note that a small jazz organization in East London recently hosted a Zoom meeting about whether they should boycott Russian musicians in future gigs, in connection with a wider appeal to talk about music and politics, flouts the disambiguation of the real ambassadors who held high regard for political diplomacy alongside wider cultural exchange. No conversation required. True artists champion life, the G spot over the D spot, and this is irrefutably the majority view. #HumanityForHumanitarians #JazzNoBorders #IllCommunications #TakeYourFightElsewhere #INTERNATIONALJazzDayEVERYDAY #RememberWhoYouAre #GoodReviews

Track Listing

New Horizons; Just Another Pop Song; Divertimento in Blue Part 1; Divertimento in Blue Part 2; Florentin; Far Side of the Moon; Valse Bleue; Home; Indian Summer

Personnel

Johannes Berauer: composer/conductor; Wolfgang Muthspiel: guitar; Gwilym Simcock: piano; Klaus Gesing: saxophone, soprano; Yuri Goloubev: bass, acoustic.

Additional Instrumentation

Klaus Gesing: bass clarinet; Bernhard Schimpelsberger: percussion; Christian Bakanic: accordion; Johannes Dickbauer: violin; Florian Eggner: cello; Kiril Kobantschenko: violin; Natalija Isakovic: violin; Damir Orascanin: violin; Katharina Henriquez: violin; Cynthia Liao: viola; Marta Potulska: viola; Katarina Steininger: cello.

Album information

Title: Vienna Chamber Diaries plus Strings | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Basho Records

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