Berlin Mallet Group: Sogni D’oro

John Eyles By

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Berlin Mallet Group: Sogni D’oro
Berlin Mallet Group is a new ensemble in which all five members play vibraphone and/or marimba, making it a unique group, the only improvising mallet ensemble of its kind. Two members of the quintet are key, David Friedman and Taiko Saito who together produced Sogni D'oro (Italian for "Sweet Dreams"). Considered an influential vibraphonist in the instrument's history, Friedman founded the jazz program at Berlin's University of the Arts and was its head for sixteen years; all members of Berlin Mallet Group met on that program. After moving to Berlin in 1997, Saito studied vibraphone and composition with Friedman; in the years since, she has formed various duos featuring mallet instruments and/or piano, including in 2019, with pianist Satoko Fujii, founding the duo Futari which released Beyond (Libra, 2021).

The other members of Berlin Mallet Group—all former Friedman students—are Julius Heise, Raphael Meinhart and Hauke Renken. The tracks on Sogni D'oro comprise three Friedman compositions (one of which, "Carousel," is a joint piece with Dave Samuels), one by Saito, one by Heise, Kenny Wheeler's "Sea Lady" and two pieces, entitled "Xylon 1" and "Xylon 4," by Rupert Stamm, a former Friedman student, who died in 2014, aged 51; the album is a memorial to Stamm, with whom Saito created the mallets duo Patema. Saito arranged all of the tracks on Sogni D'oro except the closer, Heise's "Scharfenberg."

Although Berlin Mallet Group has five members, Friedman is absent from two tracks, as is Meinhart, so half of the eight tracks feature all five players. Whatever the number of players, most of the time it is fairly futile to try and identify individual contributions to the ensemble sound. The music and instrumentation are such that the collective sound of the group outweighs that of any component part. (See the YouTube clip of "Carousel," below.) Anyone who has ever appreciated the distinctive ethereal other-worldly sound of a marimba or vibraphone in a group will find that the combined effect of four or five working together is even more beguiling. The idea of creating such a group was inspired. The music produced by the group is uniquely beautiful and should not be missed.

Track Listing

Penta e Uno; Komodo no kodomo; Sea Lady; Carousel; Xylon 1; Xylon 4; Sogno D’oro; Scharfenberg.


David Friedman: vibraphone.

Additional Instrumentation

David Friedman: vibraphone (1-3, 5, 7-8); Taiko Saito: marimba; Julius Heise: vibraphone (4, 6), marimba (1- 3, 5, 7-8); Raphael Meinhart: marimba (2-4, 6-8); Hauke Renken: vibraphone (3, 8), marimba (1-2, 4-7).

Album information

Title: Sogni D’oro | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Malletmuse

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