The LOFT in Cologne-Ehrenfeld, often described as a “musical living room” and therefore also praised for its “family atmosphere”, requires a sophisticated room arrangement in case a big band wants to set up. Anything goes. The week before last, Maria Schneider rehearsed here with the Subway Jazz Orchestra, and not in the discotheque that gave it its name. What’s right for her should be right for Pascal Klewer.
Klewer is a trumpeter and only 24; Evan Parker, Pablo Held, Christopher Dell and Christian Lillinger have made guest appearances with his big band, which is mainly made up of students and graduates of the Musikhochschule Köln. So there must be something about this body of sound!
It already starts with the line-up: two bass players! And the second trumpeter’s place – empty. Klewer welcomes the audience and announces a suite of old and new components, spread over two halves of the concert. He will later – with unusual joviality for a bandleader – chat out of the rehearsal box: “too little rehearsal time for pieces that are too difficult”. He means the past, not this concert, not the now & then.
Singer Lina Knörr, positioned on the far left, takes over quite occasionally. (She is acoustically well integrated and does not sail pointedly “over the top”; at one point she will set her girlish timbre to a pulsating duet by bassists Roger Kintopf and Felix Henkelhausen).
Occasionally you also see the band leader counting from his trumpet seat. There is no more control. And in many cases there is no need for it, as Klewer gives soloists plenty of room to manoeuvre, even to the point of pronounced solo breaks.
Before the second set – before he goes straight back to the second trumpeter’s place – Klewer announces such a free space. It was already reserved for Peter Brötzmann, ts. Now Fabian Dudek, ace, fills it. Through him, one can vividly imagine Brötzmann’s roaring, hemmed in by a spacious ostinato, whose tempo and ductus are distantly reminiscent of Frank Zappa’s “Outside now”.
Klewer likes to use such powerful grooves, but also the sheer opposite, the collective improvisation over a dissolved metre, then again the uptempo swing that jubilates under the grip of the two bassists. Tenor saxophonist Victor Fox, 19, is remembered here (he already played at the Loft when he was 15, but according to Manuela’s old motto “I still have to go to school, I don’t have time” he couldn’t take part in the after-show hang-out back then).
Felix Hauptmann, of course, remains in the memory, as does the drummer Anthony Greminger and also the fact that among the woodwinds, the low instruments – baritone saxophone and bass clarinet – are in the hands of a female musician, Kira Linn. Which is why the band leader speaks the gender asterisk fluently. The loft, one doesn’t like to say it, is not the best place to keep 18 voices apart without a doubt because of its dry acoustics. With a little “room” mixing, the DLF recording will make the concert shine in a different way.