No album cover has been seen or a long time, that brings the musical spirit and content of an album to the point with just one word in terms of language: on the cover of the new CD by the trio of Matthias Frey, Christopher Herrmann and Rageed William, “Heart” appears three times, but the color contrast shapes it to “heart / ear / art”. The art that can be received with the ear and the heart is what this is about. And if you speak the title, there is also “tear” hidden in it: It is quite possible to shed tears for this music, out of emotion and out of joy.
Already the first piece “Appearance Of The Jester” lays out the whole program: A dampened piano introduces a mysterious melody that sounds like a thousand and one nights, a cello picks it up with wistful lines, and a flute finally leads the two on an accelerated adventure journey through graceful soundscapes full of familiar and surprising impressions. With “heart / ear / art”, different musical worlds come together as harmoniously as one: the sound culture and the formal fund of European classical music, the expressiveness and richness of timbre of Arabic music as well as the individual freedom and rhythmic drive of the Jazz.
The record sounds so exciting, organic and exciting, because three proven specialists for genre and cross-border music have joined forces. The greatest experience – and with five of the nine pieces also the most compositions – comes from pianist Matthias Frey, an exceptional figure in the European music scene. Born in Wiesbaden in 1956, Frey taught himself to play the piano and performed with his own bands from the age of 14. At the age of 20 he released his first LP with only his own compositions, three years later he won the soloist prize at the jazz festival in San Sebastian and then played at the most important jazz festivals in Germany.
But Frey looked outside the box of jazz, which was still relatively erratic at the time. In 1983 he traveled for the Goethe-Institut to East Africa and the Middle East for the first time, and countless trips around the world that enriched his musical cosmos have followed to this day. Frey worked with the Indian percussionist and drummer Trilok Gurtu as well as with the experimental singer Lauren Newton, with the rock star Jack Bruce as well as with the fusion drummer Curt Kress, with the German All Stars as well as with the world music trio TRI with Büdi Siebert and Ramesh Shotham. He realized a “Jazz and Poetry” project with the Nigerian author Wole Soyinka, wrote chamber music and has composed numerous film scores since 1982, which have been nominated for the German TV Prize and even for the Emmy. He has been organizing a “World Sound Festival” since 2012 and a film music festival since 2013. Most recently, Frey co-founded the band Cairo Steps with the Egyptian oud player Basem Darwisch, which is currently causing a sensation by working with Germany’s most successful world music band Quadro Nuevo. In all of his projects, including over 30 CD productions to date, Frey’s passion for sharing with other diverse music cultures is present, in which new or minimal music can meet jazz, folk, Indian ragas, African rhythms or oriental scales.
Frey unites this openness with the cellist, multi-instrumentalist, “world composer” and poet Christopher Herrmann. The 36-year-old comes from the classics and completed the corresponding studies with Sabine Krams and Michael Sanderling at the Frankfurt University of Music. But early on, his curiosity about the music of other cultures and his fascination with jazz led him to develop his own tonal language. Just as Frey uses the entire spectrum of the piano and also directly plays its strings, Herrmann uses the baroque, the modern and the electric cello, also acts as a pianist, guitarist and violinist and is always oriented towards the human voice as the original source of his compositions, which include two cello concerts, several cello suites and fantasies, string quartets and quintets, and works for larger ensembles and songs. And among other things, world music songs like the three pieces on “heart / ear / art” (plus the closing track “Taipei”, which he wrote together with Matthias Frey). As a sideman, as with his own projects, he has been playing all over the world and recorded numerous albums; Most recently he was very successful with his multicultural “orchestra of truth”, committed to the vision of a musical-poetic natural romance. Four years ago, Herrmann also founded his own label “cellosophie”.
The 42-year-old Iraqi-born Rageed William, grew up directly in the great oriental music tradition, and is a virtuoso with two of the oldest instruments in the world: on the Nay, an extremely sophisticated Arabic bamboo flute, and on the Armenian Duduk, also sounding like a flute, but more closely related to the oboe because of its large double reed,. In his youth, William studied classical oriental music with the most important teachers in Iraq at the Institute of Musicology in Baghdad. He fled to Germany before the Gulf War, and studied European classical music, trained as a sound engineer and is working as a keyboardist and arranger. Since then, Rageed William has worked with several symphony and opera orchestras, he cultivates the music of his home country in the “Inspiration from Orient” duo with the oud virtuoso Saif Al-Khayyat and is a permanent member of the band Cairo Steps.
Virtuosos of this rank – as the Egyptian drummer and singer Ra’fat Muhammad, who joins as a “special guest” on the elegiac ballad “Shorouq” which he co-wrote with Christopher Hermann with a frame drum and vocals – can then also easily shift from a happy dance over to a bluesy jam session to a dreamy impressionistic finale in “Sarasvati Mag Apollon”, without ever endangering the inner cohesion of the piece. Minimalist lyrical hymns like “Zoe” are celebrated just as masterly as the fast-paced “Andalusia”, which extends into flamenco. Great musical art that opens the ear, widens the view and reaches the heart.