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Adam Matthes | Aleksandr Karjaka | Amanda Gookin | Austin Walker | Ben Bryden | Bradley Madsen | Chris Torkewitz | Curtis Stewart | Dan Blankinship | David Ashton | David Smith | Florian Hoefner | Isaac Kaplan | Jannina Norpoth | Jay Rattman | Jim Saltzman | John Raymond | Kathryn Andrews | Lisa Dispigno | Markus Schieferdecker | Mat Schumer | Max Seigel | Olli Hirvonen | Sam Hoyt | Tim Vaughn | Vicky Chow
Composer-arranger-saxophonist-flutist-pianist Chris Torkewitz had one of the highpoints of his many careers on March 21, 2013. He presented a concert of his original music performed by his Jazz Chamber Ensemble and his Jazz Orchestra, two ensembles formed specifically for the event. Nine years later, the full concert is being released for the first time, and it proves well worth the wait.
The Jazz Chamber Ensemble, which consists of clarinet, bass clarinet, flute, harp, piano, string bass, drums, and a string quartet, begins the special concert with Torkewitz’s four-part “Chamber Suite.” While most of the music was written out, clarinetist Jay Rattman and violinist Curtis Stewart get plenty of solo space. Rattman improvises during part of all three movements while Stewart joins him towards the end of “Farbtoene.” Both soloists are featured on “Seiltanz.”
The first movement, “Vista,” uses an eccentric rhythm with unexpected accents, and climaxes with Rattman flying above the ensemble. The moody ballad “Farbtoene” has some unusual textures and builds in suspense and tension. Kathryn Andrews’ harp is prominent as are the improvisations of Rattman and Stewart. “Noticias” becomes more passionate as it evolves while the brief final movement, “Epilogo,” has pianist Vicky Chow leading the way to its conclusion. The 17-piece Jazz Orchestra takes over for the next few pieces. “Filou” has the band playing a harmonically complex and modernistic arrangement that is a bit reminiscent of Bob Brookmeyer. Drummer Austin Walker, a muted David Smith on trumpet, guitarist Olli Hirvonen, and soprano- saxophonist David Ashton (whose solo takes honors) are in the spotlight. “Steingarden” sets a mysterious mood and features tenor-saxophonist Jim Saltzman and trumpeter Smith. For the relatively straight ahead “T.S.,” a tentet is taken from the big band with Chris Torkewitz added on tenor and flute. The composer takes an excellent improvisation and there are also memorable statements from pianist Florian Hoefner and trumpeter Smith. The full orchestra returns for the ensemble-oriented “One for You” with Jay Rattman heard on alto. The Jazz Chamber Ensemble makes a final appearance on “Seiltanz” which is a musical depiction of the monotony yet excitement felt while taking many transatlantic flights. The string quartet from the group (PUBLIQuartet) concludes the concert with the brief farewell piece “Ausblick.”
Chris Torkewitz is originally from Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, Germany. Classically trained on the piano from the age of five, he took up the alto and tenor a few years later, soon adding flute. Torkewitz began composing music at 18 and worked in a variety of projects in Germany including a Latin jazz trio and tentet. Moving to the United States, he earned degrees at the Manhattan School of Music, served on the school’s faculty, and led a trio. In 2014 he returned to Germany to become a professor of popular music at the University of Arts and Applied Sciences in Freiburg.
Still, he has been back in the U.S. many times since, usually performing there half the year. Torkewitz also toured Canada, Syria, Cuba, and Central America. Refer to the CD booklet for his artist bio.
NY Ensembles took a long time to be released but its rewarding music is timeless, quite modern while being accessible, and unique. It features Chris Torkewitz’s very individual writing at its best.