Flutist Christian Artmann was on a fast track to becoming a classical performer in his native Germany when he had his jazz epiphany as a teenager at the Aspen Music Festival. Since then he’s been striking a balance between jazz improvisation and composition, and does so seamlessly on his first New York recording. Whether he’s swinging forcefully alongside drummer Jeff Hirshfield, bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and pianist Rubens Salles, as on “Next Steps”, or creating mesmerizing counterpoint, as on “Kafka”, his vision is one of confidence. He sets a pensive mood on the sparse trio piece “Dark Slate Blue”, underscored by Hirshfield’s sensitive rubato brushwork and Weidenmueller’s interactive basslines. “On a Sentimental Flute” is a clever extrapolation on an Ellington theme. The title track is a daring excursion that demonstrates the chemistry of the core trio while showcasing the leader’s stunning virtuosity. And “Aria de Opereta”, featuring mezzo soprano Elena McEntire, encompasses all of Artmann’s musical tendencies, from classical to straight-ahead to avant-garde.
Flautist and composer Christian Artmann studied classical music intensely before hearing the call of jazz. Mixing modern jazz with different musical influences from around the world, the band makes for an intriguing sound. The group specializes in unusual textures and contextualization, like on the tracks where wordless vocals and flute combine to create a beguiling and different sound. The appropriately named “Kafka” is a short blast of disjoined flute and vocals that leaves one with an uneasy and unresolved feeling. The music is woven together in a textile like manner on “Dark State Blue” where Artmann’s flute plays against soft brushes in an interesting manner, developing a mellow meditative sound. The group uses shorter pieces like “Nymph,” a duet of flute and percussion, to break up the flow of the sound and offer interesting commentary on the music. On “Bebe-Vale da Ribeira,” the music moves through several dynamic sections of a surreal mini-suite, anchored by locked-in flute and percussion. Putting the light, nimble drums together with the agility of Artmann’s flute makes for a deeply haunted feel on some of the songs including the concluding “Easy Dreams.” The band has a unique sound that stands out amongst contemporary jazz by incorporating flute and voice on the front line. Artmann has developed his own voice and sound on the flute, combining classical and ethnic influences into the jazz flute tradition.
Flutist/composer Christian Artmann has recorded a compelling album of original music. Echoes of postbop jazz, modern classical, the avant-garde and Brazilian music all brought together in one realized vision of composition and improvisation. Artmann receives top-notch support from a stellar rhythm section. Johannes Weidenmueller, Jeff Hirshfield and Rubens Salles all sensitively and creatively tune into Artmann’s concept and together they’ve recorded a flowing, inspiring album. Vocalist Elena McEntire’s distinctive, heartfelt singing adds much to the sound of the band and the emotional strength of the music. The unique African inspired “Kafka” features a strikingly beautiful melody and a vibe of living at the border of joy and foreboding doom. The two Artmann pieces which were inspired by jazz classics (“Next Steps” by “Giant Steps”; “On a Sentimental Flute” by “In a Sentimental Mood”) are valid extensions of the ideas the standards originally provide – played with both complexity and ease. The opening 58 seconds tune, “Foreboding”, with its haunting harmonies and melody is a perfect way to start a truly original, personal album that conveys relevant thoughts and feelings for our times. I highly recommend it.
With his new CD, Christian Artmann throws his hat into the ring of an ever-growing list of top-notch, improvising flutists making personal statements and expanding the old-fashioned concept of what jazz flute once meant. His great tone, technique, lyrical playing and beautiful compositions are on par with his risk-taking and flare for group interplay.
The sound world created by Artmann and ensemble varies greatly from one track to the next, creating a sense of anticipation as one waits to hear what will occur next. Uneasy Dreams, the title track, will make the classical flutist smile with its ruminations on the standard excerpt from Brahms’ Symphony No. 1. If Uneasy Dreams ruminates, its titular companion Easy Dreams is a light-hearted improvisation that celebrates the joyful side of jazz. On every track, members of the ensemble respond to each other intuitively. I find the flute playing on Uneasy Dreams laudable for its quality. The variety of colors and styles offered from one piece to the next kept me engaged throughout. As Artmann pays homage to musicians and composers of the past, he weaves a new web in which his tributes seem neither trite nor cheeky but simply a part of the fabric of music in his own mind based on his own experiences and training.
First of all, Christian Artmann is a wonderful jazz flautist. … The haunting On a Sentimental Flute is a lovely ballad. It presumably references the Ellington standard In a Sentimental Mood. Other than a few seemingly similar short melodic passages, the similarity ends there. The bass and flute octave unison begins Steps Beyond. Weidenmueller on bass and Hirshfield on drums swing confidently as Christian Artmann weaves a solo full of cascading lines. Artmann’s lines flow, yet they are never predictable. The final cut Easy Dreams, although listed as “free” is very melodic and compositional. It is a testament to Artmann and his ensemble’s ability to play freely, without barriers. They can do this all while making the outcome very listenable – not something commonly found in free and especially avante-guard music.
Composer/flutist Christian Artmann is quite daring. I say this because his new release, which is distinctively titled Uneasy Dreams, is a delightful fusion of various genres of music and sounds. From the very first notes of “Foreboding,” which is the first track, Artmann tweaks listeners and captivates them with his exceptional sounds. It is mesmerizing. Artmann’s arrangements are natural aesthetics. They are not rehearsed representations. Listen to “On A Sentimental Flute” to verify this point. Other favorites are “Aria De Opereta”, “Next Steps” and “Uneasy Dreams.” Uneasy Dreams – an extraordinary improv.
Check out Christian’s 2011 Artist Interview with Miyazawa Flutes at:
March 5, 2017, 3pm at Spectrum, NYC
The Christian Artmann Quartet with Laszlo Gardony (piano), Johannes Weidenmueller (bass) and Jeff Hirshfield (drums). http://www.spectrumnyc.com; 121 Ludlow St #2, New York, NY 10002; Tel: (646) 275-6665. Tickets at the door, pls arrive by 2.45 pm.
October 28 at ShapeShifter Lab, NYC: The Christian Artmann Quartet with Laszlo Gardony (piano), Chris van Voorst van Beest (bass) and Jeff Hirshfield (drums).
July 1 at ShapeShifter Lab, NYC: The Christian Artmann Quartet with Laszlo Gardony (piano), Johannes Weidenmueller (bass) and Jeff Hirshfield (drums).
January 3, 2016 at First Unitarian Church, San Francisco: With Elena McEntire (mezzo soprano) and others.
Please join Christian Artmann and Laszlo Gardony for a double feature at beautiful Shapeshifter Lab on October 22 at 7.30 p.m.
Laszlo Gardony will give a solo piano concert in celebration of his new CD “Serious Play” (Sunnyside Records, 2017), followed by the Christian Artmann Quartet with Laszlo, Johannes Weidenmueller and Jeff Hirshfield.
Laszlo has been receiving rave reviews on his new CD, and Christian’s quartet is fresh from the studio where they recorded his new album (for release in 2018).
Address: 18 Whitwell Place, Brooklyn, NY 11215 (between 1st and Carroll St, off 4th Ave – Park Slope). Reservations: (646) 820-9452.