HANS LÜDEMANN | TransEuropeExpress Ensemble | RITA MARCOTULLI and LUCIANO BIONDINI On The Edges 3
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 two releases, which took the listener on a journey through North Africa with Majid Bekkas, and to Scandinavia with Kalle Kalima and Sofia Jernberg, the third in the series carries the listener to Italy. The album was recorded in Rome, thanks to the German Rome Prize for composition, which Lüdemann received in 2021.
Rita Marcotulli and Lüdemann’s collaboration is the result of a personal relationship that goes back many years, and this is reflected in their natural and intuitive interplay. Marcotulli is the “grand dame” of Italian jazz, at home in all its layers. The other guest is Luciano Biondini, one of the most original, creative, and virtuosic European accordionists today.
The pervasive Mediterranean flavour sets the mood: beside compositions by Marcotulli and Biondini, we find several other catchy hits focusing on melodic elements, such as reworkings of Lüdemann’s previous works, or tunes by Grimal and Terzic.
Hans Lüdemann – piano, virtual piano, musical direction
Yves Robert – trombone
Silke Eberhard – alto saxophone, clarinet
Alexandra Grimal – soprano and tenor saxophone
Régis Huby – violin & electronics
Sébastien Boisseau – double bass
Dejan Terzic – drums, percussion
Rita Marcotulli – piano
Luciano Biondini – accordeon
About the album
In association with Fondazione Musica per Roma / Casa del Jazz and German Academy Rome Villa Massimo
Supported by Kunststiftung NRW
All compositions by Hans Lüdemann except track 1 by Luciano Biondini (arranged by Hans Lüdemann), track 3 by
Rita Marcotulli (arranged by Hans Lüdemann), track 6 by Hans Lüdemann, Alexandra Grimal and track 9 by Dejan Terzic
Recorded by Andrea Cutillo at Casa del Jazz, Rome, on 13-14 June, 2022
Mixed and mastered by Viktor Szabó at BMC Studio, June 2023
Artwork: Anna Natter / Cinniature
Co-produced by László Gőz, Fondazione Musica per Roma / Casa del Jazz, German Academy Rome Villa Massimo and TransEuropeExpress Ensemble / Hans Lüdemann
Label manager: Tamás Bognár
Olasz Sándor - riff.hu (hu)
Hans Lüdemann TransEuropeExpress Ensemble: On the Edges 3
The album is available in digital form at our retail partners
On the Edges 3 – Roman Express
The summer of 2022 was very hot in Rome. The recordings and some of the pieces on this album were made during this time. The warmth and the sun were the subtext and the background for this music. “On the Edges 3” is the third part of a great musical journey to different regions at the borders of Europe. It was realized in Rome in 2022, premiered at the “Casa del Jazz”, the city’s jazz house, and produced in the in-house studio. The two Italian guests, pianist Rita Marcotulli and accordion virtuoso Luciano Biondini, give the TransEuropeExpress Ensemble a completely different sound in this project, with the closely interlocked interplay of the two pianos and the floating blend of the accordion as a link to the ensemble’s winds and violin.
The fact that this project could be realized in Rome was a stroke of luck and is due to extraordinary circumstances: I was awarded the Federal German Rome Prize for Composition of the Villa Massimo for 2021/22. I thus became the first jazz musician to receive this award, which until then had been reserved for composers of classical “new music”.The prize is linked to a one-year artist residency, which began in September 2021. Even before the residency began, the idea of realizing the project during the year was born, and this was taken up and supported by Villa Massimo.
My first choice for the project was Rita Marcotulli, the fantastic Italian pianist. We had known each other personally for a long time and she had already played with other musicians from TransEuropeExpress, bassist Sebastien Boisseau and violinist Regis Huby. It was a gift for the ensemble and for me to be able to work with her, and as a pianist it is something special to perform in a duo with two pianos. The connection with Luciano Biondini came about on the recommendation of Kalle Kalima – I didn't know about the connection between the two (there is even a duo CD by Rita and Luciano) at the time.
Luciano Linzi, the director of the Casa del Jazz, was immediately interested in the concept, and so we were finally able to develop the concrete project for the summer of 2022 from the first duo encounters – as a cooperation between "musica per Roma/Casa del Jazz“, the Villa Massimo, and the ensemble, with funding from the Kunststiftung NRW. Already at the beginning of my time in Rome, I was able to invite Rita and Luciano to the Villa Massimo. In October 2021, Rita and I played a piano duo concert in the Villa's concert hall.
With Luciano Biondini there was the possibility of performances at the residence of the German ambassador and at the Goethe Institute in Rome, again, as a duo. We were able to rehearse both in my "flat", the Studio 3 of the Villa, and at Luciano's home in Spoleto. I remember clearly the first time we rehearsed at his place. When he started playing, it was like the ignition of a rocket and I had the impression he could go through the roof at any moment. With both of them, working together was easy and a pure pleasure. I was impressed by their speed and lightness, their intuition and immediacy, and their utter musical mastery. The duo situations gave us the opportunity to try different musical material and test it with a view to a larger joint project, and to get to know each other musically and personally.
“Indaco”, a new composition by Rita Marcotulli, and “Stagione” by Luciano Biondini, emerged from these duo concerts, and from these pieces I later developed new versions for this ensemble project. “Love Confessions” and “To be or not to have” were also tried out in the duo. These are older pieces that had been composed during visits to Rome long ago, on the Steinway concert grand in the Villa Massimo, a magical instrument that I myself once chose and inaugurated.
When you live in Rome, you encounter millennia of history at every turn, especially often in the form of fragments and remains of ancient buildings and sculptures. I took up this idea as the structure for the new composition “Frammenti” (On the Edges 3, part 1). Another aspect of the city for me was its intensity, energy, the lively and at times chaotic hustle and bustle – this is expressed in “Movimenti” (On the Edges 3, part 2). Both pieces follow on directly from the previous editions of “On the Edges” and continue them – they are based on the same musical matrix. A third part (“Monumenti” - On the Edges 3, part 3) could not be completed in time for this production. Perhaps it was more urgent to realize “Collisione Mondiale” in response to the many disturbing developments and changes of this time. The piece is also part of a music theatre piece I had been working on in Rome – a commission from the Cologne Opera. The short melodic phrases are based on vocal texts: “Schön, dass uns're Welt sich dreht, und wir dreh'n uns mit, solange bis sie untergeht” (“It's nice that our world is turning round, and we are turning along until it goes under”).The programme is completed by the composition "Schnell" (Fast) by Dejan Terzic, the ensemble's percussionist.
The premiere of “On the Edges 3” was part of the opening of the summer festival of the “Casa del Jazz” as an open air concert in its beautiful park. This is located in the south of Rome by the old city wall, not far from the beginning of the Via Appia – a fancy property that used to belong to the Mafia and was converted into a cultural space by the city of Rome. The musicians of the ensemble travelled from France and Germany for a week and were able to stay for the most part in the Villa Massimo. For the first rehearsal we met in my “home”, Studio 3 of the Villa, then we worked for several days in the recording studio of the Casa del Jazz – first rehearsing, and then recording and producing. It turned out that the two Italian guests were a perfect match for the other musicians in the ensemble – all equally artists with their own profile and featured as soloists in different tracks on this album. In “Movimenti” Silke Eberhard is featured on alto sax, in “Schnell” it is Alexandra Grimal on tenor, in “Stagione” Yves Robert on trombone. In 2022, the summer heat in Rome began in mid-May and continued during our project. The special atmosphere of this production included both the heat and a great studio team and the outdoor “pranzo” (midday meal) with light Italian food and well chilled wine. When it was time to go back to the villa in the late evening after the production, there was even cooking and dining together.
I remember exciting kitchen cooperations with Rita, Luciano, Regis Huby, and Yves Robert. The project was a great pleasure in every respect! Unusual both for the studio situation and for the stage set-up of the concert were the two grand pianos, which took up a lot of space – this was a new situation for the ensemble and caused some difficulties during the recording. However, the audience was presented with an impressive sight on stage, and the final concert on 15 June, 2022 was a brilliant premiere.
The final work of editing, mixing and mastering the recordings from Rome was done a year later, in June 2023 at the BMC Studio in Budapest by engineer Viktor Szabó and myself.
The project “On the Edges” is a musical journey along 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. This is the core that brings the different projects together 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 of developing 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 released in 2022 as the album “On the Edges 1”. Despite extremely adverse circumstances due to the Corona pandemic, the second project in the series was already realized in 2020, with guest artists from Scandinavia. “On the Edges 2” features the Swedish singer Sofia Jernberg and the Finnish guitarist Kalle Kalima working together with TransEuropeExpress.
We are now glad and proud to be able to present a new and larger dimension of the large-scale work with these editions of “On the Edges 2 and 3” on CD and as digital audio, and to share it with you. My wish is that something of the magic and warmth of a Roman summer continue to resound in this music. We would like to invite you to join us on our journey.
Hoffnungsthal, 9 August, 2023