What happens when five musicians from the wild, young, dynamic Berlin music scene get together? In the best case, wonderfully flowing, organic, beguiling music. The best from many musical worlds is rounded off to pure jazz poetry by the quintet Abisko Lights founded by pianist Dirk Flatau, as the second album “Point of View” impressively proves.
The band name refers to a small town in the Swedish Lapland north of the Arctic Circle, where you can follow the fascinating spectacle of the Northern Lights particularly well. The name thus represents the musical program by Flataus and his companions, to be inspired by magical places and the memories evoked by them. Musicians, and especially jazz musicians, are always travelers and seekers, musically as well as geographically. Dirk Flatau’s own personal impressions turn “Point of View” into a musical road movie, in literally transboundary soundscapes. Be it magical moments like camping on the lake in the endless forests of Scandinavia and spending the night in the Egyptian desert or even just a memorable, never-ending bar-talk and a heartfelt evening alone on his balcony on Berlin’s Sonnenallee.
The fact that these impressionistic treasures are always surprising and rich in color is ensured by the unusual instrumentation of Abisko Lights: cello and bass clarinet are added to the usual piano trio rhythm section. More importantly, of course, these instruments are invariably played by masters of their craft who come from different directions. Each one contributes his own strengths and preferences: Dirk Flatau himself studied jazz and classical piano in Amsterdam and played there with greats of the Dutch music scene such as Janne Schra, Renee van Bavel and Amber Schoop before he went to Berlin where he worked with Chris Hirson, Diego Piñera and Marie Séférian. Drummer Benjamin Wellenbeck moves between jazz and pop. Flatau studied with him at the Amsterdam Conservatory: he worked as a drummer, but also as an arranger, composer or producer for projects as diverse as the Pär Lammers Trio, Götz Rausch Orchester and OrangotangoMusic. The palette of bassist Thomas Kolarczyk ranges from jazz and world music to experimental rock, winning numerous prizes at the youth age and gaining higher degrees in instrumentation with Marc Muellbauer and Greg Cohen in Berlin. In jazz, he’s out and about with Abisko Lights and his own quintet of award-winning bands like Leléka or the Marc Doffey Quintet.
A true generalist is bass clarinetist Hannes Daerr, who studied saxophone and clarinet at the Weimar conservatory “Franz Liszt”. He has worked extensively as a studio and theater musician and has worked in world music groups such as Azul Cielo, the Tango Ensemble Bassa or Klezmer Formations as well as in Moritz Sembritzki’s Magnetic Ghost Orchestra and his own Quartet No Trash, fully dedicated to jazz. The cellist Tabea Schrenk finally comes completely from a classical music background. Trained in Helsinki, London, Cardiff and Berlin and receiving several awards, she was an Academy graduate of Welsh National Opera and BBC Now; and plays different styles for various theaters, the Berlin Stehgreiforchester and in her own trio She Plays Cello.
Together they follow Flatau’s paths on “Point of View”. The process of creating the album differs pleasantly from so many others who are quickly recorded before and for a tour: “Before we went to the studio, we played the pieces so often until we really internalized the music and found the right mood and energy for everything”, Flatau reports. You can directly hear that. Together, the five dramatic melodic lines mix Arabic elements in the triolic “Assam Special Blend”, listen to minimalistic individual notes on the title track or follow the cheerful prancing dance of the eponymous play “Abisko Lights”, where Daerr shines on the carillon. Sometimes it sounds like great film music, sometimes like an Erik Satie miniature. Everyone is allowed to open new sound spaces, effortlessly moving between composition and improvisation. Piece by piece, enchanting music is created, which is allowed to boast of its beauty.