Anja Mohr Trio - Abend
Order number: INT 34222
Increasingly, European jazz is defined by piano trios. Alongside all the Esbjörn Svenssons and Marcin Wasilewskis, rising piano trios have a harder and harder time finding their own niche. Not so Anja Mohr, a young pianist from Hamburg. When she formed her trio with Willi Hanne and Andreas Edelmann in late 2004, she had no idea a piano trio boom lay just ahead. She simply let her own intuition drive her and didn’t let it deter her when new trio albums began flooding the market daily.
You don’t have to spend a lot of time getting into the music before you discover a special approach to the concept of the piano trio here. It is not just the fact that Anja Mohr combines physical power and spiritual dreaminess in a unique way. The seductive power of her piano playing derives from a lack. A lack of respect for and roots in jazz tradition, which opens new paths for her. Although the pianist is anything but a revolutionary, jazz seems to rein-vent itself in her playing. She tells stories with such naturalness it is as if she were opening a large barn door in the middle of winter to reveal a meadow of brilliantly colored flowers.
Naturally the cover versions strike one first. Anja Mohr’s way of treating jazz classics is provocative. No matter whether she is tackling Afro Blue, which is associated with John Coltrane, Miles Davis‘s Tutu, or the pop oldie Georgy Porgy by Toto, she transcends the usual procedures in jazz, in which a piece is either dissected and put back together or the musicians just improvise over the changes. She takes the piece as a whole and causes it to be heard through her ear in a new way. She herself calls this principle “reharmonization.” Tutu remains unmistakably Tutu, and yet, for all one’s respect for Miles Davis, while listening to the piece it is scarcely possible to imagine that it was ever played differently. The risk that she might be thought arrogant vis-à-vis the great monuments of jazz history is one she self-confidently ignores. She sees every risk as an opportunity as well.
If comparisons are possible at all, then perhaps a certain spiritual relationship with the young Herbie Hancock. Anja Mohr’s obsession with catchy, familiar melodies, the self-confidently rolling grooves, the impressionist temperament with a powerful palette, and her dancing spirituality recall Hancock’s albums of the 1960s. But that is more than forty years ago. The pianist from Hamburg breaks away from everything she knows. Anja Mohr has a rare talent for the authentic urstatement. Her debut album is one of the very few examples of music that requires no context to be enjoyed. If malicious gossips were to say she is not a jazz musician at all in the strict sense, since she has not sufficiently internalized the tradition, she can take that as a compliment for her creative originality. Anja Mohr’s music is ruthless in the best sense. She replaces the canon of rules for jazz with her own intuition and its historical burden with a sure sense of the zeitgeist. She permits herself the luxury of youth, of playing music for today, even when she reaches back to yesterday. She casually leaves it to posterity to decide whether her pieces are universally valid.
The pianist came to jazz through a side door. Originally she sang in a gospel choir. Her search for vocal perfection led her to a jazz teacher, who recommended her to a piano teacher who sparked her enthusiasm for jazz. The cliché that jazz is the classical music of the twentieth century means nothing to her anymore. The pleasure of discovery in the immediate sound is something she passes on unadulterated to her listeners. A hungry musician for whom jazz holds an enormous, unexplored geography of unlimited possibilities. Despite its crepuscular title, the album sounds like a cheerful departure into the blue. Anja Mohr sounds familiar in a distressing way. This fresh familiarity is the trademark that her trio has over all the other jazz piano trios today.