Friday 26 April 2024

Quadro Nuevo - 'Song For Peace'

We could all do with a peace in our lives, a commodity forever in short supply. Fortunately, there's always music to soothe the troubled brow. 'We are well aware that the everyday lives of many people are anything but carefree,' Quadro Nuevo's spokesman suggests. 'Nevertheless – or precisely because of this – even in times of crisis and war, music can offer a positive alternative world.' The long-lasting German group play some very peaceful jazz: it's often calm and meditative and very beautiful in the way of much jazz that you might label 'Nordic'. Cool, without being as icy-cool as some Scandinavian jazz or the music of Manfred Eicher's Munich-based ECM label.

The 'positive alternative world' they offer has often been sparked by travel. Quadro Nuevo have been touring the globe since their inception in 1996. 2022's gorgeous Odyssee – A Journey Into The Light, for example, was the product of extensive reading into Greek mythology and a follow-up Homeric voyage in a sailing ship around the volcanic Aeolian Islands north of Sicily. The core regulars – saxophonist Mulo Francel, bassist D.D. Lowka, accordionist Andreas Hinterseher and pianist Chris Gall – were joined on their musical Odyssey by four other lotus eaters, with whom they created a coherent suite of exquisitely atmospheric world jazz. It was the kind of uplifting music which they have consolidated on Happy Deluxe, their new album, inspired by a trip to Brazil.

Here, though, is the band live in the studio in one of their more reflective moods. The number is taken from Odyssee's predecessor, the more ruminative December. The New York-born Tim Collins introduces the piece on vibraphone, a most welcome addition to the band's musical armoury. Philipp Schiepek adds guitar and D.D. Lowka switches from bass to the udu. Mulo Francel's lovely woody clarinet works beautifully in conjunction with Andreas Hinterseher's curious hybrid of an instrument, the vibrandoneon. A cross between the melodica and the South American bandoneon, it was apparently invented in Italy during the 19th century. So it would seem that you blow, finger and squeeze. It's difficult to distinguish the result from a traditional bandoneon, but see what you think.

I chanced upon Quadro Nuevo via a German guitarist, Paulo Morello, one of the 'lotus eaters' on the voyage around the Aeolian islands. He visits these parts regularly to run jazz guitar workshops in a chateau owned by some dear German friends. I've sat in on a number of intimate concerts in their vaulted cave that he's given after hours in tandem with a fine German jazz singer, Jutta Glaser. And so it was an easy leap from Paulo to Quadro Nuevo, his intermittent cohorts.

Almost 30 years after the group was founded by childhood friends, Mulo Francel and D.D. Lowka, Quadro Nuevo seem to be going from strength to strength. They have won several jazz and critical awards and assimilated a wealth of influences to create a music that's identifiably their own. It's a music that arises, as they put it on their website, 'from the longing for shared experiences, for light, for freedom, for a world that sounds different from our consumer-oriented digital age.'

'Song For Peace' speaks volumes. Wunderschön, indeed!


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