I looked very much forward to hear this recording since I first heard about it. There is something special in orchestral projects, something that carries on with both tradition and avant-garde.
Always orchestral work is a perfect apparatus for making discoveries, working things out and of course daily hard work polishing skills duty. There is a reason for that the all great names in Jazz, after all always came from Big Bands. The bigger the better. Thankfully a lot’s going in here and one interested might face a lot of challenge.
Sternal’s achievement if comparing to others whom I experienced on the German young Jazz scene is one of the most interesting. The others are Daniel Riegler’s Studio Dan or Glatzel’s Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra. Although it is completely different approach. Of course the first formation is Austrian to be precise, but it is still the same cultural plot.
What Sebastian did comes from a simple concept to connect classical string quartet with improvising jazz musicians. Respectively piano trio as a core assisted by brass section of influential soloists. Project has as well very social aspect as young pianist and composer simply wanted to play with particular musician friends. In respect for their qualities which he would like to weave into his score knowing that their personalities WILL really make it happen the way he wishes. He respects jazzmen ability to improvise as well as he admires discipline and reach articulation of classically trained instrumentalists. Therefore he wants to have them both here to do their best.
Hence repertoire becomes very specific. The core of the recording to me is the three part suite for strings and piano (Orbit, Snow, Run), in which Sternal takes part leading orchestra and playing piano part.
Then pieces based on classical tradition come entitled as Symphonic and contain 7 movements in opposite to another six, titled individually and based on Pablo Held‘s contribution with his regular trio members: Jonas Burgwinkel on drums and Robert Landfermann on bass.
It starts with Magnolia, lovely nostalgic piece hold by alto accompanied by trio with nicely textured glissandos from strings. It certainly shows that concept works brilliant and proofs Sternal’s quality as a composer, improviser and conductor, equally up to the same high standards.
First Symphonic coming after nicely brakes traditional somehow opening. With a lot of space however left between the bars to feel for brass musicians. Here strings and brasses keep dialogue nicely bringing both. A touch of classical modernistic arrangements with freedom of winds voices hold on by improvising brass players.
The way Held’s trio holds his own here is mesmerising to listen too, especially the way Pablo reads the score. In opposite to it in the Suite, when Sebastian takes over entire world changes within a second and listeners experience romantic tradition concerting piano sound building through cascades of passages.
It is very interesting piece as dialoguing piano parts are counterpointed with strings. They brings to my mind Shostakovich, Stravinsky or Vasks like composers. String textures vary from Kronos Quartet like to more traditional forms rooted in romantic tradition. Again it all shows a unique quality of all musicians constituting string quartet here.
Too much is going on here to cut it short , hence I can only have hope that this meagre analyse hit your hunger enough to tempt you to bite it and grasp for more, as it really taste so good.
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