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Dominik Schürmann: The Seagull's Serenade

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Dominik Schürmann: The Seagull's Serenade
Insularity is a funny thing. With globalization on everyone's mind—one way or another—it is ironic that parochialism affects the fine arts in any important way. It is not as if Pablo Picasso or Gustav Mahler were merely local celebrities. In classical music, composers have long been peripatetic figures—think of G.F. Handel, as likely regarded as British as he was German. And celebrated figures are nothing today, if not international. And yet—it is only an impression—jazz seems a bit different. Of course, some players are as familiar to audiences in Europe, Asia or Latin America as they are to those in the United States, and vice versa. A pianist in Mexico may sound like a disciple of Herbie Hancock. And yet, for all that, more than a few jazz musicians labor under barriers to trade. Even in the United States, there are terrific East Coast players who are not known on the West Coast, and vice versa. Why?

Perhaps we are spoiled for choice, a situation aggravated by the Internet. Economists are fond of winner-take-all models in which one superstar garners most of the glory because modern technology makes it possible. They seldom stop to reflect that the others—not superstars, but hardly inconsequential talents—simply scrape by on little: little recognition and less compensation. Talk to the musicians. Many are all too familiar with the situation.

So, it is always an opportunity to try to introduce someone to an audience in the United States. Free trade, especially in ideas, is best. A composer's ideas do not disappear simply because someone else assimilates them. Quite the contrary. Their nuance, cultural influence and vocabulary expand. Music is a good subject to what economists call "increasing returns"; the more the merrier. Jazz may have clear roots in African-American music, but really, it belongs to everyone. As Phil Woods once observed, one can find good players everywhere, not just in New York.

That said, consider the case of Swiss bassist Dominik Schürmann. Schürmann is, for sure, a particularly talented player, as his European peers know. He is also a highly agreeable sort, multilingual, and someone whose music should have a broad audience. Schürmann comes from a musical family. Listening to his compositions suggests that he has assimilated a wide variety of influences. Schürmann's "selected" discography lists thirty-two titles. Even an assiduous listener with European connections may express some surprise at his productivity. Insularity, again, is a funny thing.

The Seagull's Serenade is Schürmann's first album with a larger ensemble of his choosing. It is a lovely recording, eclectic in its influence and genre, and as likely to remind a listener of Birth of the Cool (Capitol, 1957) in its resolute polyphony as of "West Coast jazz" in its tone quality and color. The players here, especially the lead trumpet, Marc Ullrich, are highly skilled. "The Seagull's Serenade" (the title tune) comes in two versions. The first is an attractive vocal by Song Yi Jeon, a South Korean singer and composer worth hearing. The second, with a piano trio, has a Bill Evans vibe. Whichever version one prefers, the tune is pretty. "The End of a Bug Affair" (do jazz bassists have an affinity for odd titles?) gives an impression of "Boplicity" with added swing. "Jazz People" is an ensemble feature with a particularly strong tonal center that gives Schürmann an opportunity to solo and Ullrich an opportunity to shine. "Rambo Samba" is what it says, a saxophone feature with a voice line added. "Moons Ago" is a scatted vocal by Song Yi Jeon that somehow echoes Neal Hefti with Count Basie.

The variety of feels that Schürmann provides suggests that an awful lot of good jazz has gone into his ears, and into his musicians' as well. The result is an extended experience in good listening, as well as an example of what a creative composer and player like Schürmann can do with familiar material presented in an updated and imaginative way. More could be said, but far better to simply listen.

Track Listing

The Seagull's Serenade; Bird Stories; End of a Bug Affair; Afternoon Song; Jazz People; Ramba Samba; Moons Ago; Coffee Cat; Lonely Owl; The Seagull's Serenade (piano trio version).

Personnel

Dominik Schürmann
bass, acoustic
Marc Ullrich
trumpet
Daniel Blanc
saxophone, alto
Domenic Landolf
saxophone, tenor
Patrick Joray
saxophone, tenor
Lukas Briggen
trombone
Additional Instrumentation

Dominik Schürmann: composer, arranger, bassist; Song Yi Jeon: vocals; Marc Ullrich: trumpet, flugelhorn; Claudio Bergamin: trumpet, flugelhorn; Daniel Blanc: alto saxophone, flute; Domenic Landolf: tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, alto flute; Patrick Joray: tenor saxophone, flute; Lukas Briggen: trombone; Kira Linn: bariton saxophone; George Ricci: bariton saxophone, bass clarinet, clarinet; Tilman Günther: piano, co-arranger, Janis Jaunalksnis: drums

Album information

Title: The Seagull's Serenade | Year Released: 2023 | Record Label: Self-produced


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