Keyboardist Stefan Oberthaler explores creative possibilities of Nu Jazz on latest release


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The creative possibilities of jazz are still being explored. That Stefan Oberthaler should name his new album Journey Man has a deeper meaning. As a musician, Oberthaler is an adventurer, one who is fearless in stitching together old and new elements of jazz for experiments in reinventing pop music for the 21st century. It's a seemingly uphill climb; there's been so much that has been done before, even in the area of the avant-garde. But what Oberthaler manages to do is not only reconstruct jazz; rather, he uses jazz as the foundation for which he drops layers of electronic, funk, and lounge music. The results are surprisingly accessible.

Hailing from Vienna, Austria, there is a distinctly European perspective to Oberthaler's take on jazz. For example, the jazz community in America largely does not have an openness to synthesized beats, especially those inspired by house music. “Move" is aptly named; Oberthaler's high-speed keyboards generate infectious energy. It also has a truly funky vibe that vocalist Mariko Kiyose latches onto, transforming it into a clash of R&B, dance, and jazz that is utterly irresistible. The title track, on the other hand, reveals Oberthaler's affection for spaced-out scores.

Oberthaler's commitment to progressive jazz sounds extends beyond his own work. He has also formed his own record label, Killervirus-Audio, that will explore the various offshoots of Nu Jazz. Oberthaler is basically continuing the pioneering experimentations with jazz that Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock broke ground with decades ago. The commercialization of the genre, with the proliferation of smooth jazz radio causing much of the damage, has created a generation gap in the audience. Oberthaler's innovative compositions help ensure that jazz will be appreciated by younger listeners in years to come.

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