HANS LÜDEMANN | TransEuropeExpress Ensemble | Kalle Kalima and Sofia Jernberg On the Edges 2
TransEuropeExpress, Hans Lüdemann's octet of French and German musicians, debuted in 2018 with the album Polyjazz and subsequently embarked on a musical exploration with the project On The Edges. This seven-year series is set to visit five different regions within and outside of Europe. The ensemble and guests paint a richly layered picture of European jazz through the interplay and fusion of their musical mother tongues.
After the first album, which took the listener on a journey through North Africa with Majid Bekkas, the second in the series transports the listener to Scandinavia. The album has a modern, contemporary feel, and features two guest artists: Sofia Jernberg from Sweden, a cult figure on the avant-garde scene, who shows off her unique vocal and musical talents in all their glory, and Finnish guitarist Kalle Kalima, who has shown us his many faces over the decades, but is making his compositional debut with sophisticated pieces that also reveal his unique sense of humour.
The album is concludes with compositions by Silke Eberhard and Ronny Graupe, written specifically for the ensemble.
Hans Lüdemann – piano, virtual piano
Yves Robert – trombone
Silke Eberhard – alto saxophone, clarinet
Alexandra Grimal – soprano and tenor saxophone (6-7)
Régis Huby – violin
Ronny Graupe – guitar (6-7)
Sébastien Boisseau – double bass
Dejan Terzic – drums, percussion
Kalle Kalima – guitar
Sofia Jernberg – voice
About the album
Recorded at Maarwegstudio, Cologne on 20 September, 2020 (1-5)
Mixed at Maarwegstudio, Cologne, June/July 2023
Recorded and mixed by Wolfgang Stach
Recorded at BMC Studio, Budapest, July 2019 (6-7)
Mixed at BMC Studio, Budapest, 2021
Recorded and mixed by Viktor Szabó
Supported by Ministerium für Kultur und Wissenschaft des Landes NRW
Artwork: Anna Natter / Cinniature
Produced by László Gőz
Label manager: Tamás Bognár
Thanks to Sofia Jernberg, Kalle Kalima, Frank Lüdemann, Ulli Blobel (Jazzfestival Ruhr), Stadtgarten Köln,
Wolfgang Stach (Maarwegstudio 2), Thomas Baerens (Ministerium für Kultur und Wissenschaft des Landes NRW)
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Hans Lüdemann TransEuropeExpress Ensemble: On the Edges 2
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On the Edges 2 – Polar Express
“On the Edges 2” is the second part of a great musical journey to different regions at the borders of Europe. The fact that we were able to realize this project in 2020, only one year after “On the Edges 1”, was a small miracle, because it took place in the first year of the Corona pandemic, when almost all concerts and projects were cancelled.
“On the Edges 2” was also on the brink of collapse and was postponed, but finally the “Jazzfestival Ruhr” was brave enough to actually organize concerts in September and to include our premiere in the program. Rehearsals and recordings were also organized, all musicians were spared contagion and the premiere and production were able to go ahead!
But it also meant that for this project the possibility of combining the musical journey with geographical travel was ruled out. The exchange with the two guests - the singer Sofia Jernberg from Stockholm and Kalle Kalima, the Finnish guitarist living in Berlin, in the run-up to the project and in the course of its development had to take place in other ways, mostly online.
And the concert premiere and recordings also took place took place not in Scandinavia but in Germany: at the Jazzfestival Ruhr in Bochum and at the Maarwegstudio in Cologne. While the collaboration with Sofia was a premiere, there had already been a connection for some time between the ensemble and Kalle, as he had already played in the band as a guitarist during concerts and the recordings of the first TransEuropeExpress album “Polyjazz”. His knowledge of the musicians in the ensemble, his commitment and enthusiasm, his team spirit, his humour and his creativity gave this project a wonderful energy.
While Sofia Jernberg brought her special improvisational concepts and ideas, Kalle Kalima worked on very complex compositions. One of them, his piece “Viruses”, directly reflects the situation at that time. The vocal text is a list of the names of viruses – surprisingly, the Corona virus is only one of many and one sees it in a special context and contrast. In their joint improvisation, Sofia Jernberg and Silke Eberhard seem to have already found their own antidotes for all pathogens in this piece. Another composition by Kalle Kalima is “Sand”. It seems less to imagine sandy beaches on Finnish lakes or the Baltic Sea, but rather to layer complex rhythmic levels on top of each other, which interlock and are gradually exposed. In places it feels like quicksand, when the foundations of the rhythmic figures suddenly shift. The layered, small-scale and independent figures of the individual voices swirl around like little grains of sand.
"On the Edges" is not only the name of the entire project, but also the title of the piece that connects all the projects in the series. My composition "On the Edges 2" follows on directly from "On the Edges 1" and is based on the same musical matrix. The piece has two contrasting levels: a calm, lyrical and atmospheric basic mood, which develops from the guitar introduction by Kalle Kalima and is later continued in the bass solo by Sebastien Boisseau and in several polyphonic melodic passages, and a second level of fast, interlocking rhythmic motifs introduced by the piano. These are reinforced towards the end by Silke Eberhard's alto sax solo and finally lead into a finale with virtuoso unison lines of voice and piano.
There are many things that fascinate me about Sofia Jernberg's singing and voice: her wonderful timbre, which lends warmth to even her most experimental improvisations and extreme sounds, and makes every note sound round, her enormous vocal range; the ease and virtuosity with which she combines and masters complex composed material and very different improvisational situations; and how she uses her voice in the most varied ways, with or without lyrics. I admit that these enormous possibilities tempted me to push the envelope on the vocal part in this piece – certainly beyond the limits of what is usually the case. Such high notes and vocalises are rarely heard in jazz singing. This is especially true of the final section of the piece with its unusual vocal part. I am grateful to Sofia for accepting this challenge as well!
"No Moon" is one part of a music theatre piece that I have been working on for some time as a commission for the Cologne Opera. It describes a kind of surreal scene in which the moon has fallen from the sky. In this version for the ensemble, Sofia Jernberg sings the text and two duo improvisations tie in with the lines of text: The singing of “Moon, oh moon, where are you?” is followed by a duo commentary by Silke Eberhard and myself (clarinet/piano). The subsequent question “Moon, where have you gone?” is pursued by Kalle Kalima and Regis Huby, (guitar & violin/electronics). The final part of the piece then becomes a moment of pause and freeze. “Where is your face, where is the light? No more moonlight in the sky.”
The piece “Erdfarben” (“Earth Colours”) is based on a motif of a traditional balaphone piece from Mali that I learned from my friend and musical partner Aly Keita. The motif is the nucleus from which the whole piece is developed, with changing rhythmic levels, subdivisions. and harmonic colours. There is a role reversal in the ensemble, for the rhythmic function is taken over here primarily by the harmony instruments (guitar and piano) and partly also by the winds and the voice, while the bass and drums play melodic and soloistic roles. A long trombone solo by Yves Robert develops on the rhythmic web of patterns, and after another thematic section follows a drum solo by Dejan Terzic. Here Sofia Jernberg's singing blends in with the rhythmic accompanying patterns of guitar and piano.
Has this now become the “Scandinavian” project it was intended to be? Perhaps some people think of “Scandinavia” in terms of the music of a Jan Garbarek (whom I used to play with years ago), which can be associated with vastness, melancholy and loneliness. The music on this album is far from that, but the two guests have had a great personal influence on the musical result, and with them a new ensemble sound and a new and special repertoire have emerged. Possibly this project shows that geographical location is not necessarily the decisive factor, and that the new musical mosaic stones of this project fit very well into the “On the Edges” series.
The recordings with Sofia Jernberg and Kalle Kalima were made in a single day in the Maarweg Studio in Cologne. The reason for this also had to do with the pandemic situation and its restrictions – more was not possible. Therefore, the material of this session is not very extensive, giving us the opportunity to add more pieces to it. There are two pieces that we had recorded in 2019 at the recording session of “On the Edges 1”, which were still unreleased and can now be heard on this album. These tracks are played by the octet in its original line-up. The ensemble is completed by Alexandra Grimal (soprano and tenor saxophone) and Ronny Graupe (guitar), neither of whom played on “On the Edges 2”. Ronny Graupe wrote one of these pieces for the TransEuropeExpress in 2019 entitled “Standard Default”, giving the band its own sound image with powerful, abstract harmonies, rhythmically interlaced melodic lines, contrasted with meditative-introspective sounds and freely improvised passages. Ronny Graupe: “Standard Default” means something like “Standard specification”. You often see this when working with computers, or with technical devices. On the one hand, it can be interpreted as meaning that something is standardized; on the other hand, this default holds potential for something more advanced, which has evolved from the standardized starting point.” Silke Eberhard wrote “U11”, a kind of musical timetable. The composed elements of the piece function like stations of an underground journey, between which the ensemble improvisationally creates the connections – partly collectively, partly with solo passages.
The project "On the Edges" is a musical journey on and beyond the borders of the of the European Union. The project, which is planned for the long term over a period of seven years, comprises five individual projects, each of which focuses on a specific region. The “TransEuropeExpress – Ensemble” invites guest soloists and composers from this region to develop and realize a joint musical programme. Like the guests, the musicians of the ensemble are creative minds who can be heard equally as soloists. Each of the projects has its own character and gives the ensemble a different sound. The connecting element between the individual projects is the multi-movement composition “On the Edges” by Hans Lüdemann. It is the core to bring the different projects together and to form a great “Gesamtkunstwerk”. The inspiration for the project came from the literary-journalistic project “Along the Trenches” by Navid Kermani, and the idea to develop a music project with a similar approach.
“On the Edges” began in 2019 in collaboration with the Moroccan musician Majid Bekkas. It was realized with concerts and recordings in Cologne and Budapest and the result was presented in 2022 with the album “On the Edges 1”. The present album “On the Edges 2” with Scandinavian guests Sofia Jernberg and Kalle Kalima was recorded in 2020 and will now be released together with “On the Edges 3”, the project created in Rome in 2022 with Rita Marcotulli and Luciano Biondini. We are happy and proud to present a new and larger dimension of this long musical journey with the realization of “On the Edges 2 and 3” as a CD production and digital release, and we invite you to join us on our travels.
(Hoffnungsthal, August 2023)