«Bestens eingespielt und mächtig verspielt...zudem eine topbesetzte Band!» titelte der Kulturtipp zur letzten CD UNDERWATER von «Peter's Playstation».
Mit SNOWLAND - der nun dritten und dieser Tage ganz neu erscheinenden CD - setzt das 2008 von Schlagzeuger Peter Preibisch gegründete Sextett noch eins drauf. Federleichte Grooves und griffige Kompositionen verschmelzen zu einem individuellen Bandsound, gewürzt mit hochklassigen Solisten; allen voran der Schweizer Ausnahmesaxophonist Andy Scherrer.
Did you ever ask yourself what is behind what meets the eye or the ear as a symphony orchestra is performing? There are, of course, the instruments, most of which have a rich developmental history of several hundred years. There are the members of the orchestra, all of whom will have been practising on their instruments for thousands of hours. And there is the music, usually compositions rooted in hundreds of years of mainly European musical tradition. And there are plenty of conventions that are normally followed to a large extent and for good reasons. So it takes a plethora of preconditions that are to be met before we can be enchanted by, say, one of Brahms’ symphonies.
How different from that kind of culture is a band like Peter’s Playstation? Some of the instruments have the same historical background as those in the symphony orchestra. But drums and percussion instruments are of mainly African and American ancestry whilst the bandoneon is commonly associated with Argentina – although it actually originated in Germany. The Fender Rhodes is an electric version of our good old piano developed in the USA. Peter’s Playstation is, in other words, a concoction of carefully selected instrumental options out of an almost endless variety of possibilities that exist in this globalized world (jazz, by the way, put globalization into practice long before the internet emerged). The players have certainly been practising as long as most classical performers even if part of the emphasis may have been laid on different things like finding their own personal sound and musical language. And then there is the idiosyncrasy of the jazz idiom, shaped and used globally for many decades and providing a rich fund of stylistic options to choose from when determining a band’s musical identity. Not quite unlike classical music then, a project like Peter’s Playstation is rooted deeply in tradition and takes considerable effort to be brought to life.
Another difference seems to lie in the way Peter works as a composer. On the one hand, he puts together – composes – his band. It must be an adventurous job to develop the synthesis of the instruments he has in mind and the individuals he would like to have in his band. Peter has always shown great talent and a good sense of anticipation in that: There may have been a few changes in the band’s personnel over the years, but the music has always maintained its transparent style and cool composure. Peter is, on the other hand, once again the composer of most of the tunes, although a record number of three compositions has been contributed by other members of the band this time. Gregor Müller and Eric Hunziker certainly knew how to write music that both reflects their own personal style and fits in with the overall character of this production.
Why not take a closer look at some of the tracks? Wait, the opener, may well leave you open-mouthed. This awesome composition by Gregor has a mysterious intro played by piano, guitar and percussion; bass and drums then establish the rhythm for the A-part (can you find out what the time signature is?) followed by Andy Scherrer presenting the theme on his tenor saxophone. Wow! What a sound, what rhythmic and tonal precision, what relaxed maturity he displays as he leads us through the intricate A-part and then quite effortlessly into the Brazilian-style B-part. Andy takes a solo over A, displaying all the qualities of a world-class musician: every single note is carefully placed, gets the player’s full attention when it comes to sound, intonation, dynamics and articulation. He seems to help himself to phrases from a huge reservoir of tonal and rhythmic options that are at his disposal when performing. You will also notice that each of Andy’s solos has its own individual mood: This is a human being communicating to us through his horn in a highly specific way, miles ahead of a well-trained musician playing correct notes. Gregor manages to rise to the challenge of getting on with the show after a thrilling climax by showing qualities like virtuosity, rhythmic variation, a large vocabulary and good taste in his solo on Fender Rhodes. And he deserves the credit for the piece, which is rounded off by its theme, which we are happy to hear once again.
Foggy Thoughts, the first out of seven Peter Preibisch tunes on the CD, is an attractive jazz waltz with hardly anything Viennese about it. Gregor shows his skills on the grand piano as he presents a beautiful intro in quasi classical style with a touch of Monk about it. Silvan Jeger’s bass, played precisely, unobtrusively and with a pleasantly warm sound throughout the whole production, joins in, followed by drums and percussion to form the basis for the theme. After an interlude consisting of interplay between piano, bass, drums and guitar, bandoneon maestro Michael Zisman makes his first statement on the CD: An impressive solo that integrates the melancholy mood somehow inherent in the instrument with the musical language of contemporary global music. After another tenor saxophone solo that reaches the usual high standard, Peter on drums trades eights with the rest of the band thereby expressing variety, musicality and inspiration whilst requiring very little space to achieve that. After the head out, the piece briefly returns to its intro to which Gregor adds a surprising, minute and charming little coda.
In the composition Snowland, the title tune of the CD, the band seems to celebrate the joys of winter. This is not a piece that is absolutely typical of the repertoire of Peter’s Playstation: definitely ‘off-jazz’, roaming freely in the world of pop. The opening on Fender Rhodes is countered discretely but very rhythmically by Eric Hunziker’s guitar before the musicians take off to play a theme whose basic rhythm seems almost banal with a melody above it that is clearly more complex than it sounds. Then we can again hear Andy confirming the high level of performance he has set before, Gregor with an unaccompanied solo in a triplet feel leading harmoniously on to a hot guitar solo in the original rhythm that also has a sound that is appropriate to this kind of tune. Andi Pupato then drives Snowland to its culmination providing the kind of exciting and tasteful percussion that so much enhances the music of Peter’s Playstation. If any of the numbers is to make it into the charts, this will be the one!
We can hear Peter using sticks, brushes and, on Ride on Ice, mallets in the course of this CD. And he is a master of all of these, not only laying a firm rhythmic basis together with his colleagues in the section of the same name, but also creating lovely melodies every now and then. Apart from that, there are several other things that appeal to me in Ride on Ice. First and foremost, the two soloists, Michael Zisman and Andy Scherrer. They seem to be giving their playing an extra twist here, reaching new heights in respect of virtuosity and control, forward drive and meaningful content. A sheer delight! No less pleasing than that is Peter’s careful and inventive arranging job. The sound he gets by combining bandoneon, guitar and tenor saxophone in unison must be something new under the sun. And then he goes on to supplement these, for a few delightfully brief moments, with two further saxophones, thus creating a sound that is remotely reminiscent of a big band horn section and yet having a pleasingly unfamiliar effect on the listener. Beauty that does not shout at you. There are many more things to be discovered on Snowland. Have a go – and you will be rewarded.