feature photo: Jimmy Katz, courtesy of ACT Records.
This isn’t quite like the Fab Four arriving in New York in February 1964 to formally launch the triumphant British Invasion, but the Germans Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr could hardly have found a splashier way to herald their arrival at the epicenter of the jazz world: by recording with David Bowie’s Blackstar saxophonist and bassist and Kneebody’s drummer.
The prodigal trumpet/flugelhorn (Julian) and piano (Roman) talents and brother act have been stars at the German-based ACT label since they were discovered by label founder Siggi Loch in their late teens. Currently 29 and 32 years old, Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr already had four albums under their belts and had gained the confidence in not only performing but composing, recording and producing their own music.
Now ready to take on America, they arrived in NYC to record their fifth album; Landed In Brooklyn is due to drop March 17, 2017 via ACT ‘Young German Jazz’ series. The duo filled out a quintet with the addition of Donny McCaslin (tenor sax), Tim Lefebvre (electric and double basses) and Nate Wood (drums), in a set of lively, hard-bop jazz numbers mostly penned by the brothers.
“Bernie’s Tune” displays modernistic, dynamic multi-rhythms, and it soon becomes apparent that the syncopation carries over to Julian and McCaslin as well; Julian also puts down a nifty flugelhorn turn. On “Tutto,” Wood and Lefebvre inject a tough groove into a melodic, ‘poppy’ tune. Roman’s loose piano aside bristles with the blues.
Speaking of the blues, “Tinderly” is just that, and McCaslin makes good on his solo spot. “Durch den Monsun” begins with a touch of Steve Reich minimalism and settles down into a relaxed mood with nimble bass/drums coaction. The ballad “Carlo” provides a fitting platform for Julian’s flugelhorn, but Roman relaxed, Sunday morning delivery outdoes his brother.
McCaslin’s tenor is combustible, passionate but always in control on “S.N.C.F.,” and Julian does nice work dousing the flame with his cucumber-cool articulation.
Roman turns to a Seaboard keyboard for his solo spot on a cover of Sting’s 5/4-paced “Seven Days,” sounding much like Pat Metheny’s Red One guitar-synth, but it’s perhaps more interesting in how the tempo is changed up for the chorus section in such a way that the flow isn’t disrupted.
Oh, and there’s unofficially one more track. “First Rays of Dawn” (presumably not available on the vinyl version) waltzes with a fluid movement thanks to Roman’s comping even as the rhythm section hustles beneath him and the horn players.
Landed In Brooklyn is a plenty respectable pack of modern jazz performances, but it’s not a case of the big names carrying the little-known (in the US, anyway) ones. Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr rise to the high level of their much-ballyhooed supporting cast.