Emotional reactions to the pandemic have had a big impact on artistic output in the last two years – but new music for 2022 is different. These albums were conceived and recorded in a time of relief and cautious optimism, as lockdowns lifted. And that delicate, hopeful spirit is at the heart of Release by Lisbeth Quartett.
The band is led by multi-award-winning saxophonist and composer Charlotte Greve. It features Manuel Schmiedel on piano, Marc Muellbauer on bass and Moritz Baumgärtner on drums. They started playing together in 2009 and Release is their fifth album.
“We did a streaming gig in lockdown and it was really special,” says Greve. “Everything felt so connected, even though we hadn’t performed together for a couple of years. I started thinking… let’s keep it going, let’s make another record. But what feels honest and genuine? What’s our strength?”
One major strength of the compositions on Release is their meandering, exploratory character. On Bayou, a simple rhythm underpins a wormy melody. Baumgärtner’s percussive textures resist and wriggle. As the mood starts to settle, the song reinvents itself. The bass hums over balladic piano chords and a lounging, laidback attitude emerges. Greve adds violin-ish long tones. The band builds to a yearning and aspirational climax, before the song’s original pattern returns like a half-forgotten memory.
“I was thinking about the swamps in Louisiana, raw and rough,” Greve says. “But then there’s a cut, where we go into a totally different thing, like opening another door.”
The title track is another highlight. It starts with foreboding shapes and sounds from each instrument. Slowly, the sun rises and darkness recedes. Even difficult things are possible. The musicians hurry in different directions, teetering on the edge of the harmonic frame. Then a final passage opens up, the sax out of breath from the climb but gazing wide-eyed from the mountain top.
Release is an open-hearted album by an open-minded and open-eared group of musicians. Greve’s compositions conjure waves of sound, while her saxophone voice evokes birdsong at daybreak. Lisbeth Quartett have created a record that resonates with hard-won freedom, like wildflowers pressing upwards through the last winter frost. The nectar is fresh and pure.
“Some of these songs are wide open,” Greve says. “That’s what naturally comes out when I think about the beauty of playing music with very little info on the page, just connecting with the band to lift something bigger than the composition itself. We know how to lift it together, without talking. And that’s a unique feeling that only happens with a lot of musical trust.”
The album is available on CD here, and for streaming or digital download here.
I've been enjoying your reviews of great releases from Germany!
Vielen Dank, Alexander!
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