Cornelius Claudio Kreusch – piano
Jazz pianist Cornelius Claudio Kreusch had a “vision” early on with one of his albums. With his “Black Mud Sound” he created a world music emulsion earlier than most, landed a funky “Scoop” soon after and also turned to the Afro-Caribbean sound cosmos with “Féfé” and “Sun Music”. With “Life Is Beautiful”, he even ventured into pop, and with “Two Worlds One” and “Gestalt!”, he also combined classical music and free improvisation into an overarching concept. Most recently, he let himself be carried musically by Thomas Mann’s novel of the same name, but also by his own relevant experiences, in large-scale improvisations on the “Magic Mountain”. But the process behind all these so different projects now gives his new album its title: “Transformer.”
“The artist, in his best moments, is an engineer of transformation. He brings the idea into the world as a creative construct. The jazz pianist is an improviser and thus the transformer of the moment. Familiar or new melodies are scooped into a new in the moment.” This is how Kreusch describes the basic idea that guided him in this album. It is also a concentration, born of this time of forced pause, on the core of his artistic self-image: on the solo pianist Cornelius Claudio Kreusch.
For the pianist, who was first trained by his mother, concert pianist and music educator Dorothée Kreusch-Jacob, and then at the legendary Berklee College of Music in Boston and the Manhattan School of Music, is one of the most creative jazzmen on the planet, thanks to his extroverted nature, always bursting with energetic ideas.
With “Transformer,” Kreusch follows up on earlier albums such as the hit album “Live! At Steinway Hall/New York”, to “Dolomites” and “Heart & Soul” and thus to his strengths as a soloist with a solitary signature. This time it is not a single improvisation marathon, a single underlying theme or a specific developmental step that he documents here. Rather, it is the sum of his experiences as a transmitter of his musical ideas. Many different sources of inspiration feed this album, from long-matured ideas that have just never been recorded to dewy-eyed songs that show him at the zenith of his pianistic development process.
The opener, “Paco,” for example, is a tribute to the unforgotten grandmaster of flamenco guitar Paco de Lucia, which Kreusch wrote the day he moved on Feb. 25, 2014. “I was interested in expressing the feeling of his spirit, his contribution and example to the world of music through my sound.”
Kreusch’s incomparable force and dynamism, his stupendous technique, his inexhaustible creativity and, last but not least, his gift for inventing catchy melodies from which everything flows, make the album a special experience. These are, in the final analysis, songs that Kreusch creates, as is evident from the album’s recording technique, which maps every nuance, and from the fact that you can hear him singing along in the background – like an Oscar Peterson or an Erroll Garner once did.
As with much of the Kreusch family’s earlier work, family ties play a major role. So on the sparkling pianistic character studies “Aeneas” and “Meral,” dedicated to his two youngest children, the latter as ballad and chansonesque. Or in “Easter Monday,” for which his daughter Isaya even co-wrote: “She called me on Easter, sang me a melody and said, ‘Papa, make something out of it!'” Thus was born what is perhaps the most impressionistic, classical-sounding piece on the album.
Many other facets of Kreusch’s artistic personality are reflected in other pieces. On “Funky Monkey,” his soulful streak and his penchant for groovy rhythms come together. “Legacy” is a pianistic exclamation point at breakneck speed, in which one finds the pulsating big city life of New York, where Kreusch lived for almost two decades. “The Last Poet” proves that Kreusch continues to work on himself, especially through the impressive bass voice of the left hand, which here really has equal rights. Finally, as another masterpiece of his art of transformation, the album’s only cover version: John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps,” one of Kreusch’s favorite pieces, “which accompanies me almost every day,” to which he here gives a completely new flow with the most varied time signatures and a completely new shape with a tireless round of reharmonizations.
Mind you, for all songs so far the compositions, themes and structures are described here. However, improvisation always plays at least as big a role with Kreusch, i.e. the transformation of the given in the moment, in this case stimulated by the atmosphere of his “Red Velvet Studio” or the livestream situation at the Jazzfest in Munich’s Gasteig. With “Transformer” Kreusch once again proves to be a master in bringing these two worlds together.
In any case, he should achieve what he formulates as a goal: “Times like these require transformational energy. I wish this album helps you enjoy your own transformational moments for a healthy, sonorous, respectful and peaceful world where we can all be truly sovereign individuals within the collective spirit.”