It is always fascinating when improvised sounds take shape and become rousing music. For this miracle appropriate musicians are needed, who can lead and develop this conversation without words. The jazz pianist Cornelius Claudio Kreusch and his brother, the classical guitarist Johannes Tonio Kreusch, have proven for a long time that they are capable of this, although or perhaps because they come from different musical genres and worlds. Their most recent album with the programmatic name “GESTALT!”, however, is an important highlight of their previous dialogue of improvising togetherness.
This is also due to the third member of the band, who mediates between the two styles of the Kreuschs, who makes the otherwise not unproblematic, often overlapping combination of guitar and piano sound completely harmonious and on top of that spreads a secure rhythmic foundation at every moment: the American bassist Anthony Cox. He is one of Cornelius Claudio’s oldest friends and companions: “When I came to New York from Boston during my studies at Berklee College of Music, Anthony was the first American musician who accepted me completely, opened doors for me and gave me the feeling that I belonged to them,” Kreusch says. With his love of experimentation and his play, combining stoic calm with a sense of tranquility and extending this towards modern music, especially when using bows, he now belongs to the inventory of the New York jazz scene. He worked with old masters like Sam Rivers, Stan Getz, Elvin Jones or Craig Harris as well as innovators like Henry Threadgill or John Scofield; he belonged to the bands of Anthony Davis, James Newton or Marty Ehrlich and has released several albums as bandleader himself since the nineties.
The postulate of the song “New York, New York”, popularized by Frank Sinatra; “If you make it here, you can do it anywhere”, was fulfilled by Cornelius Claudio Kreusch as one of the few German jazz musicians. For many years his main place of activity was an artist loft in the East Village in Manhattan, with neighbors like Philip Glass, Jim Jarmusch, John Lurie, Robert Rauschenberg and others. The stimulating atmosphere pushed him, anticipating current trends, to his jazz fusion with funk and Afro-Caribbean; with his bands “Black Mud Sound” or “Fo Doumbe” he played in legendary New York clubs like “Blue Note” or “Knitting Factory” as well as on the stages of major festivals and concert halls; his solo “Live! at Steinway Hall / New York” was shortlisted for the GRAMMY®, under the title “New York City – uptown downtown” he even ventured into pop music, and his Internet company MUSICJUSTMUSIC®, with which he also became an award-winning entrepreneur, had its sphere of influence for a long time from Munich and New York.
Johannes Tonio Kreusch also has an American past, studied in New York at the Juilliard School of Music, lived in the loft with his brother for several years and made his Carnegie Recital Hall debut in 1996. But in the end, the more quietly and searching musician was drawn back to old Europe, looking for the alternative to the “Faster, Higher, Further”, which was often performed in music in New York. Here he played his way into the first league of classics with his revolutionary Heitor Villa Lobos reconstructions, among other things, but always remained on the lookout for new sounds and expressive possibilities of guitar sound, which also made him a formative figure of the scene as a teacher and festival director. His recently released Hermann Hesse homage “Siddhartha” shows excellently his openness for preparations of the guitar and for technical experiments, but also his ability to improvise within the framework of a classical tone, by the way in combination with the Thomas Mann homage “Zauberberg” by his brother Cornelius.
As “GESTALT! proves, these three solitary artists are a perfect triumvirate precisely because of their very different natures, in order to give form to completely free music-making together: The autochthon rooted in the tradition of black music, the fire-head eternally searching for stimuli and the one dormant in the sound design and mystical depth of European music. Anthony Cox recognized this intuitively and early on: When he was a guest at the Ottobrunner concerts ten years ago for a concert with Cornelius Claudio Kreusch, Will Calhoun and Klaus Doldinger, organized by both Kreuschs’ as artistic directors, the opportunity arose for a spontaneous session with the two brothers. Afterwards Cox only said: “Cornelius, we have to do this again and record”.
It has taken a long time, but now this overdue summit has taken shape in every respect. Cox was serious, booked his flight, and the three of them gave free rein to the pent-up ideas for this already unusual trio in the intimate atmosphere of Cornelius Claudio Kreusch’s Munich studio. “Two afternoons, we just played, and the tape was the witness,” Kreusch says. The essence of these spontaneous sessions, as documented here, is inspiring.
Because these three gifted musicians, as if by magic, alternate and complement each other in creative leadership; because – unlike many free jazz sessions that have fallen into disrepute because of this – they prove a grandiose feeling for the right ending of the individual improvisations; and because almost every movement gets a song structure, although it was never intended.
What’s more, this album amazes the listener like no other. Already the brilliant idea to make the lexicon definition of Gestalt to album titles: “A configuration/ A Pattern of elements/ So unified/ As a whole/ That it cannot/ Be described/ Merely/ As a sum/ Of/ Its/ Parts”. Together with the extraordinary artwork of the album, working with symmetry, form and number symbolism, an almost magical interplay of music, word and image results, parallel to the magical coexistence of the musicians, where cause and effect, before and after, cancel each other out. Thus “GESTALT! is the bold but successful dialogue of three free spirits and seekers in the most universal of all languages, music.