2018 WhyPlayJazz (WPJ040), CD + MP3 Album Download
Paul Peuker (guitar, composition), Clemens Christian Pötzsch (piano), Mark Weschenfelder (saxophone), Alina Gropper (violinquinton), Filip Sommer (violaquinton), Elisabeth Coudoux (cello), Eugen Rolnik (bass), Florian Lauer (drums), Sissi Rada (vocals on "Mnimi")
Recorded, produced and mixed by Max Trieder at Hirschberg Studio, Oberkirchen and Studio 5, Berlin. Mastered by Henning Birkenhake at Eastside Mastering, Berlin. Photos by Dovile Sermokas. Design and artwork by Travassos.
With an octet that includes a string trio, guitarist/composer Paul Peuker has created an incredible universe of sound that catapults the guitar back into contemporary jazz. A fascinating fusion of jazz and European contemporary classical music characterize Peuker’s exceptional compositions – critically praised and vibrant in a live setting.
The return of the guitar to contemporary jazz has been going on for some time.
The guitar’s role in jazz has more importance than ever before. Now making his home in Berlin, Paul Peuker is one of those players. In order to establish a wider musical spectrum, in 2011 he formed his octet, Peuker8. Characterized by a fascinating fusion of jazz and European contemporary classical music, Peuker’s exceptional compositions have been highly praised and have proven to be viable in a live setting.
You might think, aha, Third Stream jazz, and ignore the whole business. But Peuker’s music has nothing to do with some sort of ambitious academic work; rather, it flows forth with a wonderful vitality. Coincidentally, the listeners’ pleasure is a forgone conclusion as they become conscious of the close, natural intertwining, of players and styles. Peuker’s seemingly effortless structures are filled with spontaneity. This music is not overly cerebral; it is agile, multi-faceted and self-consistent without being intrusively overpowering. And it's a music from the here and now primed with American jazz and colored by European experiences, with string trio integrated in such a way that it accomplishes far more than enhance the music’s ‘flavor’ or effect.
Luckily, Paul Peuker has kept his large group together as he continues the exploration of his ‘third way’. Having grown out of a multiplicity of joint musical experiences, his second album, "Influx", is the next step; with a heightened intensity, he decisively suffuses his concept with life. Dense and rugged while at the same time transparent and permeated with creative details, this spirited band navigates its way through the ten concisely structured compositions.
Peuker has written into them a balanced awareness of form and improvisational freedom, as if they could have never been any other way. The pieces allow this large group to play with the fluidity of an extremely flexible organism.
Peuker is a remarkable guitarist. He can breathe new life into a ballad, but he can also let loose, hands-on and rocking, without losing sight of his responsibility to the group. This goes for all of the players. Theirs is a collective sound – compact, playful – and it all makes sense. At times there is such a rhythmic intensity that it may well make you want to get up and dance. The solos are cleverly integrated into this musical cosmos, since each individual is a part of the common cause.
Ulrich Stock recently wrote in Germany’s prestigious der ZEIT newspaper, "Suddenly jazz is back – in the big cities, in improvised clubs – and at some of the concerts the listeners are as young as the musicians. How can that be?" Peuker8 offers one of the most plausible answers.
A consciously balanced work, in which one can perceive a tasteful interaction of the individual sub-disciplines.
The strong, individual voices of Peuker8, its work throughout the years (with only two changes in its personnel, but not in the octet instrumentation), the generous degrees of individual freedom and Peuker own personal voice as a guitarist deny Peuker’s intricate and well-structured compositions from becoming academic exercises. Still, these multifaceted compositions are complex, demanding and often cerebral, never break through into unknown territories or surrender to a burst reckless energy. The careful balance between the jazz-y rhythm section, the string trio, and the main soloists – Peuker himself, sax player Mark Weschenfelder and pianist Clemens Christian Pötzsch, takes its toll.
Once again [Paul Peuker] confirms the suspicion that he is not a "normal" jazz guitarist, but a rather ingenious individualist, who composes the stylistic genres together with his octet like no other. [...] Yes, these are syntheses, and they actually and very convincingly, work as assimilation of genre parts in which the genre-typical is still preserved and recognizable. [...] That's a masterpiece. And Paul Peuker in the best way up into the Olympus of true innovators.
The record is a compelling statement of constant inspiration filled with brilliant moments and blissful improvisations as well as beautiful compositions.
The music immediately strikes the listener with its originality and immense intensity, which are entirely unprecedented. It is a variety of Jazz-Classical Fusion, but no other music of that category has previously reached such level of natural symbiosis as this music, which amalgamates Jazz tradition with contemporary European chamber music, expanding the idiom´s boundaries tremendously. [...] It will take a while for this music to reverberate and achieve the recognition it truly deserves, but it definitely marks a milestone in European contemporary music, including the Jazz idiom but also way beyond. The aesthetic and intellectual ingenuity, talent and effort this album offers to the listener are all extraordinary and deserve the highest praise, which will be hopefully followed by acknowledgment as well.
There are the different timbres from which Paul Peuker can creatively select to work out the best possible sound for his compositions. [...] It pays off if you do not always play everything that is possible when arranging. The result is a transparency in which you can also discover many small details without being lost in a sonic mush. [...] Influx is a demanding CD without to submit to the claim. Peuker8 manages to be interesting for a larger audience without having to congratulate themselves.
The instrumentation gives Peuker the opportunity to show his compositional skills and at the same time his fine feeling for improvised music. [...] Handsome compositions, musical adventure, complex rhythm, melodic ingenuity, glowing solos: Influx has it all. The music has energy, knows subdued moments and sounds playful. In addition, the fun is splashing off. A rich and varied album.
The special feature of this record is the use of a string trio in the jazz context. This swallow alone does not make a summer, but there is also Paul Peuker's fabulous electric guitar work, the open-minded view of the possibilities of the instrument and, of course, his compositions, which interweave jazz and European, contemporary classical music on an equal basis with each other in an exciting and judgmental way. What may seem a bit cumbersome at first develops an inexorable pull in the course of the album, especially as composition and improvisation also have equal proportions. At the same time, "Influx" does not shrink from rocking hardiness.
His compositions are modern, structured but leave plenty of room for real improvisation. [...] This is music for the advanced jazz lover, who does not shy away from some dissonance and likes to challenge himself.
A very solid set of brilliant musicians who knows how to beat the pitfalls of complex and sometimes a little wobbly rhythms and highlight the colors imagined by a composer who merges into the collective as an instrumentalist.