“Variety and surprise characterise Retrospection … perhaps in that memorable final sequence lie the secrets of Hans Koller’s magic – he solves the perpetual jazz conundrum of making music for the mind and the body. As ‘Retrospection resoundingly confirms, he’s doing it now with an intelligence and vivacity that brings him ever closer to the stature of Russell, Evans, Gibbs, and that long procession of his famous elders.”
– John Fordham
Hans Koller, the innovative contemporary pianist and composer, is to release Retrospection – a triple album of recordings, featuring the German NDR Bigband, legendary bassist Steve Swallow, American saxophonist John O’Gallagher and Danish guitarist Jakob Bro, alongside an outstanding line-up of eminent UK jazz musicians.
With influences from Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans to Lennie Tristano and Gil Evans, Retrospection brings together three distinct and fascinating recordings from the last five years of Koller’s broad musical adventures.
The opening Retrospection I presents a 12-piece horn-led ensemble with special guest Steve Swallow, playing three Koller originals plus arrangements of music from Lennie Tristano, Charlie Parker and much-admired drummer Jeff Williams, who also features on the recording.
Koller switches from piano to wurlitzer for Retrospection II, bringing him together with compelling US alto player John O’Gallagher (who recently left Brooklyn for the blossoming Birmingham jazz scene) and the twin guitars of Jakob Bro and Phil Robson as part of an 11-strong band. Koller’s two-part composition, Half of Life, features for the first of two contrasting airings over the three records, along with distinctive arrangements of Herbie Nichols’ The Gig, and JS Bach’s choral Der Tag Mit Seinem Lichte (The Day With Light) featuring Irish-born vocalist Christine Tobin.
Recorded in Hamburg, the final and most recent of the three recordings introduces the exceptional German NDR Bigband, which traces its origins back to 1945. The seven Koller originals offer strong echoes of Gil Evans’ influence on his writing, together with the energy and intensity of the NDR.
Hailing from Bavaria, Koller has been in the UK for 25 years, and now bases himself between Birmingham and London, yet marks the deep influence of his jazz-loving Father with two different interpretations of Holderlin’s poem, Half of Life, on Retrospection.
Koller explains: “I used to think that Hölderlin was old hat – difficult, unmoving. And when we did some in school, well, that was the end of it! But fast forward, and out of the blue for my 40th Birthday, my late father sent me a letter which had Half of Life printed at the top of it. He commented on the poet’s acute sense of light and dark, how his bitter-sweet humour transcends eras and categories, and how the poem speaks directly to us – to me in the mid-life (crisis, what crisis?!), and to him, as he must have sensed, at the end of his life.
“He embraced death a happy man, and the life-affirming counterpoint of the creative with the passing away is what remains. It’s as if he’d gone back to the first Half of Life, thus playing the poem back from the top. This resonated with me to the point of wanting to set music to Half of Life, containing a young man’s song and an old man’s song. When I found Michael Hamburger’s English translations I immediately heard a bluesy quality to the verse which I hadn’t noticed in the German original. That’s when I knew I could dare another translation, into the universal language of jazz.”
Recorded in London and Hamburg, featuring extensive liner notes from John Fordham, original artwork and design, the limited edition 180gram triple vinyl is released in the UK on April 15th, following special performances at Birmingham’s CBSO Centre and London’s King’s Place in March. Retrospection is a joint release from Birmingham-based Stoney Lane Records and vinyl specialists Impossible Ark.
Hans Koller – Retrospection
Released – 15th April, 2016
Catalogue – #SLR1920
Available digitally, and on 300 x limited edition triple vinyls
For further information, promotional copies and interviews:
+44 (0)121 794 0552