Laura – vocals
Jens Loh – bass
William Lecomte – piano, fender rhodes
Eckhard Stromer – drums
It’s amazing that no musician comes to mind right away who has already processed this image: The balcony as a creative culmination point, as a place of encounter, of exchange with familiar as well as new people, which at the same time “excites contradictory feelings,” as singer Laura puts it: “The feeling of being at home and the feeling of being exposed to the outside world. The feeling of freedom coupled with the feeling of being in a safe place.” A powerful metaphor for the mind of a musician. And a perfect anchor for an album: “Sunset Balcony” is the name of Laura’s new work, “created in her mind on balmy evenings on a sunset balcony, alone or with loved ones, thinking about our place in the world or even just what we want to cook for dinner,” as she reports.
Laura describes a place in the sun with a view toward Paris: fourth floor and a French salon, into which the light of the Eiffel Tower falls through the glass front from time to time like a beacon from the distance, into which the view of the stone mountains of the suburbs is allowed to wander. Recently, the 27-year-old has spent much more time here than in her home near Stuttgart or in the concert halls of the world, as she is in the final stages of her psychology studies at the Université de Paris. A foundation that is important to her and resonates in her lyrics.
Laura, who at that time was still using her last name Kipp, had already attracted attention in the Stuttgart jazz scene and in the BundesJazzorchester (BuJazzo) with her musical talent, her voice and her charisma convinced greats such as Quincy Jones, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Jacob Collier. In the same year, she also met bassist Jens Loh, with whom a naturally resonating creative community quickly emerged: His compositions and her lyrics fit together by themselves, so to speak: “Our aesthetic understanding just fits together perfectly,” says Loh, who produced the album “Sunset Balcony”.
The perfect team around Laura and Jens was also found quickly. The drummer Eckhard Stromer, an old companion of Loh, is well versed in all styles. The French pianist, keyboardist and Bill Evans student William Lecomte, who has already worked with such different greats as Jean-Luc Ponty, Vaia Con Dios or Nigel Kennedy and, in addition to Loh’s arrangements, contributed two beautiful orchestral arrangements. And last but not least Cornelius Claudio Kreusch as unconditionally behind them standing producer.
If the debut “Quiet Land” 2021 was already more than a sample of talent, this dream team has now taken the next step with “Sunset Balcony”. “This time everything is yes explicitly written for the album, in very intense compact work phases. In addition, I had the voice of Laura and the sound of our band of course much better in mind,” explains Loh. With Laura, on the other hand, maturity and life experience flow into the authentic and touching lyrics. The song “Oh, I Could Write A Book,” hits the nail on the head.”
“I actually met the ‘Bartender’ of the song of the same name in real life,” Laura says. “He looked 60 but was much older, the blues was his great passion, the nostalgia palpable. The most important song lines came to me the first time we met, and I wrote them down right after.” And what a poignant refrain came out: “You’re 68/ never too late for work/ I’m 25/ and see the misery in your eyes.”
Laura also wrote the music for “Bartender” and the final echoing “Promise Me”. And when you can trust each other as a well-rehearsed duo, know each other’s abilities so well, have found a common denominator and agree on the goals, then you can lean further out over the balcony, dare more. And so “Sunset Balcony” bears the unmistakable signature of those involved, without having to limit themselves stylistically. Even more colorful than “Quiet Land” is the palette of colors that make up the picture.
From the pop-like hymn of the title track at the beginning to the hip-hop influenced “Poke Bowl” or the chansonesque “Bénodet” – a reminiscence of the city of the same name in Brittany – to the almost psychedelic “Prayer”. Funk peeks around the corner in “Johnny the Fly” and “Dance Into The Light”, it gets very folky in “Forever In A Blink”, “Bartender” revels in the blues and in the musette jazz of “Narcís” singer and guitarist Carles Denia contributes a strong Catalan element, still un-interrupted by the lyrical baritone saxophone of Frenchman Eric Séva.
Speaking of which, in order to paint the corresponding colors coherently, the quartet has been joined by outstanding, highly competent guests. The well-traveled guitarist Christoph Neuhaus, who was recently awarded the Baden-Württemberg Jazz Prize, and the Brazilian percussionist Paulinho Vincente can be considered old friends, and they are each involved in three pieces. Two pieces are highlighted by the young Jakob Bänsch, one of the greatest trumpet talents of the current European jazz scene. The wonderfully film-musical, in a way canvas-filling “Oh I Could Write A Book” not only gets the desired “feel” from the string quartet with Luca Bognár, Marianne Sohler, Natascha Stromer and Krassamira Krastera, which has already proven itself on “Quiet Land”, and congenially arranged by William Lecomte, but also by the horn player Joachim Bänsch and the flautist Isabelle Bodenseh, who is well versed in all facets, variations and stylistic possibilities of her instrument.
“After all we’ve been through, the album could have been called ‘Oh, I Could Write A Book,'” Laura says with a laugh. “But that wouldn’t have been appropriate to its mood,” Jens Loh counters. “I think it’s a very thoughtful album. Of course, that also has to do with our times.”
“Sunset Balcony” is an album whose music moves toward the future, but along the way nostalgically glances back over its shoulder. Into the real and emotional contradictions between melancholy and optimism that we all have to live with more than ever. Into the sunset on the balcony.