Robert Keßler – guitar
Andreas Henze – double bass
Tobias Backhaus – drums
Think big! Bigger, further, faster! We are no longer used to attaching importance to the small. We don’t have enough attention span for details in the ever more confusing mountains of images and sounds that pile up in front of us. Nuances are no longer perceived at all, they are not recognised behind the filters of the present or they are wiped away like an annoying little creature.
“Little People”, the new album by Berlin guitarist Robert Keßler, comes at the right time. Because it directs the senses, dulled by distractions, to the essential and seduces them to listen: For example, to the pleasantly warm sound of the wood of Keßler’s archtop Gibson ES-175 from 1963, or to the enormously concentrated interplay of Keßler, double bassist Andreas Henze and drummer Tobias Backhaus, which pays attention to each other’s most minimal musical gestures. And last but not least, on the compositions, which grow in their course and flourish to full splendour like seeds carefully made to sprout.
The pieces on “Little People” are indeed the result of a long maturing process. Some of them the guitarist, born in Jena in 1984, has been carrying around in his head and heart since his teenage days. For example, “Le Pull Vert”, reminiscent of Bill Frisell’s Americana magic, is the first composition Keßler ever wrote. “I must have been 14 or 15 at the time. I remembered the melody when I was riding my bike to school,” the father of three recalls with a laugh.
And “Für Hanns” also hides a very personal story that goes back to childhood. The composition is dedicated to Keßler’s grandfather, who worked as a pastor in the GDR. “He was a great guy, very educated and yet super down-to-earth. I loved him very much,” says the grandson, whose way of making music reveals many similarities with his grandfather: On the one hand, there is an impressive multilingualism that encompasses the entire vocabulary of jazz guitar from Jim Hall and Kenny Burrell to Pat Metheny or Kurt Rosenwinkel, with whom Keßler studied. The two interpretations of the standards “Nobody Else But Me” and “My Ideal” on “Little People” are a perfect testimony to this. Just as clearly, Keßler, who was initially influenced by Sting and Eric Clapton and has already worked professionally with Udo Lindenberg, Felix Jaehn or Herbert Grönemeyer, also has an unbiased openness for pop material that is more distant from jazz.
On the other hand, one senses a great humility and modesty in every note the guitarist strikes. The format of the trio actually allows him to take an incredible amount of liberties, explains the Berliner, who has been a music college professor since 2017. “But I can’t create music in such a way that it is exclusively tailored to me. It’s always about the song. Music doesn’t need an ego.”