The Austrian tenor saxophonist Swantje Lampert caught the jazz bug relatively late, while studying for a degree in law. She took up the saxophone and, some twenty years later, after graduating from the Vienna Conservatoire and the Berklee School of Music, has matured into an assured player and a characterful composer.
Lampert is an experienced sideperson on the Austrian scene, but Now! appears to be the first album released under her own name. It is a collection of fourteen short pieces performed with bassist Karol Hodas and drummer Christian Eberle. All but three of the tunes are Lampert's, the exception being Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance," Ron Carter's "Little Waltz" and Steve Swallow's "Falling Grace." Most of Lampert's pieces, which are sinewy, skeletal and rhythmically sophisticated, were written for big bandsshe has performed with and composed and arranged for the Alexander Ehrenreich Big Band and Vienna Big Band Unitbut they work well in these stripped-down incarnations. The average playing time of each track is around four minutes.
Lampert's sound is reminiscent of Sonny Rollins. It is robust, rough hewn, stays mostly in the low and middle registers and embraces the low-end honks and punctuation marks with which the older player splatters his performances. Lampert's improvising style is less thematic than that of Rollins, though not entirely dissimilar, and she interacts much more closely with her colleagues than he does. Her trio is a group of equals, each tuned into the other two. So interlocked are they that is often impossible to tell when a passage is pre-composed or collectively improvised.
A talented performer who commands attention throughout the album's nigh on sixty minutes, Lampert shows at least as great a gift as a composer. It would be interesting to hear her work on a larger canvas. Meanwhile, this trio album is a debut of which to take serious note.
Now (Flies The Blackbird); Crystal Symmetry; Violet; Hotch Potch; The Mushroom Hunter; Moin Moin; St Aulaye; Dolphin Dance; Looks Like Sand; Cloudburst; Little Waltz; Die 2 Parallelen; Falling Grace; Breathless.
In addition to writing and editing for All About Jazz, Chris is editor of the British style/culture/history magazine Jocks&Nerds and consultant Afrobeat historian for Google Arts & Culture and Partisan/Knitting Factory Records.