Horst-Michael Schaffer & Jazz BigBand Graz: The Space Between Us

Fluent Austrian trumpet and flugel soloist leads a big band playing music with rock, soul, rap and world flavours

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This is an ambitious, high-energy and most intelligent project from Austria, dedicated to the cause of helping build a better world. Naive as that might sound, the sweeping power of the music carries all before it, with the scale of the orchestrations, rhythmic drive and overall quality of the voicings a perfect complement to the ambition and achievement of leader Schaffer’s writing, lyrics and playing.

A shorthand way of characterising the music would be to call it technologically updated, probing and thoughtful jazz-rock. But that would scarcely do justice to the richness of endeavour to be enjoyed. Compare, e.g., the stonking yet also reflective measures of the opening Becoming with the initial tempered time and gorgeous figures which precede the spoken-word musings from Ben Arogundade in the following Praslin: the return of a strong rhythmic impetus then precipitates some building, razor-sharp ensemble riffs and fierce, electronically enhanced trumpet testifying from Shaffer over the hovering, trance-like electronic soundscapes created by Philipp Sageder, before the piece concludes with an affecting range of noble ascensional figures.

Those figures – and the volcanic intensity – continue on Superspreader, which eventually comes to feature both reflective impressionist-like passages and a soaring and searing alto solo from Patrick Dunst, the mood-rich whole recalling Klaus Doldinger’s Passport at its genre-crossing best.

The mellow Resistance then takes us deep into archetypal territory of gospel and soul music provenance, featuring a lovely flugelhorn outing from Schaffer as well as extensive (and exciting) German rap from one Yasmo. The concluding Hope then reprises motifs and the overall mix of assertive declamation and poised meditation, with another striking flugelhorn solo from Schaffer and an extensive and meaty outing from tenorist Fabian Rucker, over kicking drums and ever-building ensemble figures.

Phew! I love the life-affirming energy here. I just hope a whole bunch of other enthusiasts of both top-class big-band music and a searching, humanistic and holistic intelligence come to do so too.


Discography
Becoming; Praslin; Superspreader; Resistance Of Humanity; Hope (54.15)
Schaffer (v, t, flh); Patrick Dunst, Christoph Pepe Auer, Fabian Rucker, Tobias Hoffmann, Martin Harms (s, ww); Dominic Pessl, Bernhard Nolf, Axel Mayer, Gerhard Ornig (t, flh); Alois Ebert, Daniel Holzleitner, Karel Eriksson, Johannes Oppel, Reinhard Summerer (tb, btb); Philipp Sageder (elec, sampling, v); Phil Maier (elg); Philip Nykrin (Fender Rhodes, syn); Thomas Wilding (elb); Tom Stabler (d); Ben Arogundade (spoken word); Yasmo (rap). Graz, 14-16 April & 12-15 May 2022.
Natango Music NAT 47625-2