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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Achim Kaufmann - Later (Pirouet Records, 2015) ***½

By Martin Schray

Achim Kaufmann is one of the most under-estimated musicians in the jazz world, something he has in common with one of his mentors, Georg Graewe. But this might change now since Kaufmann was awarded the Albert-Mangelsdorff-Prize, apart from the SWR Jazz Prize Germany’s most prestigious prize in jazz (although it comes along with only €15,000 this is hardly anything compared to prizes like the MacArthur Fellowship and its $265,000).

Along with the prize Kaufmann has released his new solo album Later, which consists of cover versions of some of his idols (Ellington, Monk, Nichols etc.) and his own compositions - and compared to his work so far it is a very accessible recording.

It has been one of the major characteristics of Kaufmann’s music that he has always explored free spaces within the compositions - and he has always done that in a very unagitated way. That’s why he often falls back to the music of Herbie Nichols, the master of the break and intricate harmonies as stylistic devices. Kaufmann adopts the swing of the Nichols compositions but adds a certain melancholy to it (“Shuffle Montgomery“), or he combines it with a Hans Eisler tune (“Portrait of Ucha/In den Weiden“) which works surprisingly well. But Kaufmann is also a man who thinks out of the box, which is why he has chosen two pop songs as well - just to interpret them in his very own way: First he derives Syd Barrett’s “Dominoes“ of all psychedelic faintness turning it into a romantic ballad and then he stresses the desperation and the need to change in Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue“.

Kaufmann plays free music in a way which has nothing to do with free jazz, as the German weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT put it, by letting the chords and the single notes breathe. He manages to create an exciting kaleidoscope of music which lives from a very dense atmosphere which even reminds of the better Keith Jarrett albums, it is music for the very early hours of the day - for the blue hours.

Kaufmann, who is actually closer to harsher, more adventurous music (think of his marvelous projects like SKEIN, Grünen, AAA or his duo with Michael Moore, whose composition “Dave“ is also on this album), reaches out for a bigger audience with this album. It would be nice if he succeeded with this attempt. He deserved it.

Later is available on CD and as a download.


Dan S. said...

Not to be pedantic, but the MacArthur Fellowship is actually even more than that: $625,000! A truly staggering amount of money. Think of how many Tzadik CDs that must've bankrolled... :-P

Martin Schray said...

You are not pedantic at all, Dan. Thanks for mentioning it. I have to admit that I googled how much Ken Vandermark got and thought that this was still the current amount. Quite a lot.

Anonymous said...

album deserves 5 stars!!!!!