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Martin Wind: Appreciating Bill Evans

R.J. DeLuke By

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"I'm a string player and I have a diploma as an orchestra musician from the Music Conservatory in Cologne. I think I always had an idea how to write for strings. But I had to go back and study scores and read orchestration books and find out about the other sections. How you write for a woodwind section. How you write for brass. How you write for percussion. How you write for harp. How do you write so that everything actually blends?" he says. "It was exciting going back to being a student again. I worked with the music notation program Sibelius so that I had some kind of feedback and was able to hear my attempts. But it was nothing like the first rehearsal where I actually heard the result of my labor. It was overwhelming."

His quartet also helped bring the music to life. There was one change, however. Joe LaBarbera, the last drummer to play in the Bill Evans Trio, was brought in for the project. Martin had met the drummer before and they had talked about working together. Wind saw this as the opportunity.

"That was a no-brainer to bring him into this project. It worked out beautifully. He knows how to play. We had one concert where we had no sound system whatsoever, but we played this beautiful 200-year, 300-year-old theaters in the region. You really need to know how to play with an orchestra. You don't want to overwhelm anybody, but you still want to be energetic. He was the perfect choice."

Robinson, a mainstay in many New York large bands like the Maria Schneider Orchestra, gets to stretch more with Wind's quartet and his voice on the new recording is exquisite. "Not only with this project, but when we're playing more of my compositions, he's the voice of my music," says Wind of Robinson. "It's as simple as that. He brings it all to life."

The quartet only had a couple days to rehearse with the orchestra before they did three concerts in Europe, one of which became the music on the CD. "It was a big project. Amazing. And fantastic when it finally happened."

Wind says there is talk of possibly going back to Europe next year for more performances of the music. In the United States, he is finding that orchestras in the various cities are more interested in pop-oriented things if they are going to cross over away from the classical repertoire. He has contacted many, but with little positive response. "I wish they would show a little more courage to present something different," he says.

But there will be one concert on November 21 at the New Trier High School, just outside of Chicago. "They arguable have the best music program of any high school in the country," he says." Easily on the conservatory level there. I'm very much looking forward to bringing this music back to life with these young people."

Reflecting on the music of Evans, Wind notes that it's not just the beauty of the iconic pianist's music that drew him in, but " all those amazing bass players" that played in the Evans Trio over the years, like LaFaro, Chuck Israels, Marc Johnson and Eddie Gomez. "That was also pulled me into his world."

Wind's own world of music started in his hometown Flensburg, Germany, the most northern city in Germany, just a few minutes south of Denmark. He was tinkering around with the guitar as a teenager when a band director in school asked if he wanted to play the electric bass in the school band.

"I said, 'Sure. I'm not going to end up being a bassist.' And of course, that's exactly what happened... From my earliest beginnings [on bass], I always played all kinds of genres. I didn't even think in those kinds of terms. It was like, on Friday I had an orchestra rehearsal. On Wednesday it was always big band. We played concerts with orchestra and choir. Playing some pieces by Bach or Handel or whatever, and then three or four days later I might be playing a performance with a jazz trio or a big band. It's always been like that. I really love that."

Wind moved to moved to Cologne and studied classical bass for six years. Meanwhile, he was working more and more as a jazz player and began to come into contact with American musicians. He was asked to go on the road with Slide Hampton for some swings through Europe. He also started working with Bill Mays, "who had heard me at the North Sea Jazz Festival playing with a Dutch group. So more connections started to come together. I thought eventually I didn't want to just play with musicians of that caliber for only four or five weeks out of the year. I want to be around it all the time. I could tell that being around them lifted the level of my playing."

Wind successfully applied for a scholarship through the German Academic Exchange Service, which brought him to NYU as a student in 1996.

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