The Stephan König Trio Digs Mozart!

Mozart in Jazz001

MOZART: Piano Concerto in A, K. 488. Abendempfindung an Laura. Der Blues der Trennung. Der Zauberer. Sehnsucht nach dem Frühling. Eine jazzige Nachtmusik. Rondo alla Turca / Stephan König, pno; Thomas Stahr, bs/el-gtr; Wieland Götze, dm / Auris Jazz 5080

There are several different ways to create jazz arrangements of classical works. In this CD, pianist Stephan König and his trio take the most delicate approach, limning Mozart’s music with a light touch rather than digging in with a more aggressive approach. Doubtless this was done, at least in part, as a deference to the Classical roots of the composer. Yet there are some definite moments in which König and his fellow artists turn old Wolfgang Amadeus a bit funky, and these are the moments I treasure the most.

Their treatment of the K. 488 Piano Concerto starts out so delicately and slowly that, at first, I wasn’t even sure that the CD was playing, but a couple of minutes in and they were really swinging—not quite as strongly as the way Jacques Loussier played Bach, but swinging nonetheless. König throws in a “cadenza” of his own, which consists mostly of fluttering right-hand figures. To be honest, it’s not terribly impressive, but it does set up a transition to the “slow movement” of the concerto, and this, too, is played with tenderness, retreating from the sound barrier and leaving out the bass and drums until a minute or so in, at which point bassist Thomas Stahr surprisingly takes a bass solo, quite high up on his instrument, with König playing chord fills behind him. The trio kicks back into a higher gear in the third movement, even throwing in a bit of a Latin beat towards the end, and once again Stahr plays a solo very high up in the bass range.

Similarly, Abendempfindung an Laura is played like a jazz ballad, much of it by König on solo piano until Stahr enters with an absolutely lovely melodic improvisation. More interesting was Der Blues der Trennung with its slightly funky beat and Stahr’s surprisingly funky bass solo, but I drew the line at the simply awful rock-influenced guitar solo (I would assume by Stahr, since this is just a trio, and no other guitarist is credited in the booklet).

Der Zauberer is also given a funky sort of beat, yet with florid Classical piano runs thrown in for good measure while Sehnsucht nach dem Frühling is, again, taken as a ballad in which Stahr’s solo is the standout moment.

Of course, I was waiting to hear how they were going to play their version of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and the “Rondo alla Turca,” and I wasn’t disappointed. The first of these is a vrry playful arrangement with several tempo shifts, eventually settling into a nice, swinging tempo with König fracturing the melody line and tossing in some interesting twists and turns. The second movement, surprisingly, begins quite slowly with only a faint hint at the original melody played on the bass, and this continues for some time as both Stahr and König sort of play around the edges of the tune, while the third is turned into a sort of medium-tempo 6/8 with König in his best form and drummer Wieland Götze providing a surprisingly funky drum solo.

The “Rondo alla Turca” opens up as a slow tune with an irregular beat, the familiar melody improvised on within two bars of its introduction. The pianist eventually introduces some surprising key changes and blues chords, ending with a delicate tinkle.

Overall, an interesting disc showing how Mozart can be adapted to a few different jazz styles.

—© 2019 Lynn René Bayley

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