J.D.HIVE – Photo by Severin Koller

„Classical chamber jazz of the highest quality; ECM worthy“ – Johannes Dickbauer’s
new quartet as described by the London Jazz News. Co-winner of the
international Seifert Jazz Violin Competition 2020 Dickbauer presents himself as a
composer of sophisticated yet accessible songs of engaging ebb and flow, and an
elegant violinist. The band seamlessly fuses chamber, folk, jazz and rock aesthetics
into a powerful program, marked by an unmistakable spirit of adventure.

Johannes Dickbauer – violin
Sebastian Schneider – piano
Andreas Waelti – bass
Andras Des – percussion

Regular violin pizzicatos are racing in fast tempo, a drum joins in, all of a sudden, we realise that we are in the asymmetrical world of the 7/8 beat, the piano enters and enriches the music with pop-music like harmonies, the rhythmic texture becomes increasingly complex, then the violinist takes up his bow and begins to play an irregularly phrased Bartókian melody seemingly inspired by Eastern-European folk music, but the musical current wouldn’t stop; its energy keeps expanding. This dense series of events is packed in the first minute and a half of the piece Vaccination frenzy by Austrian violinist Johannes Dickbauer. And in the nine minutes to follow the diverse ideas from various sources of inspiration keep coming, one after the other in a breathtaking wealth.

It is not easy to decide what we really hear. Is it jazz? In quite a big part of the album, the timbre produced by the piano-bass-percussion trio (Sebastian Schneider, Andreas Waelti, András Dés) indeed invokes the world of jazz, just like some sequences of harmonies and the gestures of the double bass solos. Nonetheless, Dickbauer’s violin performance lends the music a peculiar colour, as well as the structures of the compositions and the musical toolset. Is it then perhaps classical music? Obviously not, or rather, it is, in part. After all, Dickbauer is rooted in the classical tradition: he was a classical violinist before he discovered his idiosyncratic musical universe, first in the eight-member Dickbauer Collective, then in the chamber music formation, JD Hive, playing on this album. If it is not classical music then, is it perhaps world music? If we were able to define the term itself, we might answer in the affirmative, but only in the same sense as Goethe used the term “world literature”. Johannes Dickbauer’s music doesn’t only rise above national boundaries but also genre boundaries. In this respect, it is very much a 21st-century album, as the era of genres is probably over for once and for all: we can make references to them, but they don’t really make sense any longer. For the most creative musicians, genres represent something like signposts along the road, marking directions, where not to go.

Dickbauer doesn’t think in genres but in themes, and in some cases not even in musical but social ones. Three of the six tracks of the album translate personal experiences into music (Dystonian distractions, for instance, relates the poignant experience of how after a hand disorder, he could return to life-giving music-making). The other three tracks, on the other hand, open up a more extensive perspective. The continuously changing musical landscape of Race for 1.5 reflects on the issue of environment: the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, where the world’s political leaders agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The dramatic travelling music of Lost Caravan commemorates the story of those Mexican refugees in the US who became destitute during Donald Trump’s presidentship. Vaccination frenzy reflects on the most momentous global experience of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic.

As far as Dickbauer’s primary musical inspiration is concerned, the length and the meticulousness of the compositions show Pat Metheny’s influence, but the music also evokes Brad Mehldau’s freedom of harmony and rhythm and Jacob Collier’s genre-crossing and colourful musical palette. As to the impact of violinists (the singing legatos, the rich timbre, and the virtuoso bowing technique), it is more informative to look at an entire spectrum that ranges from the legendary Russian violinist of the mid-20th-century David Oistrakh to one of the most original violinists of our time, Pekka Kuusisto than to list specific musicians. In melodic construction, polyphony, and structure, we can also discover the imprint of the great masters of classical music, from Bach to Schubert, from Stravinsky to Bartók. In the summer of 2020, Johannes Dickbauer collected the top prize at the Zbigniew Seifert Jazz Violin Competition in Poland. The professional jazz press gushed over the musical material played by his ensemble. The portal All About Jazz described his compositions as “sophisticated yet accessible”, while the London Jazz News commented on the band’s performance as “classical chamber jazz of the highest quality; ECM-worthy”.

Gergely Fazekas

  1. Vaccine frenzy 1:49
  2. Lost caravan 1:05
  3. Dystonian distraction 0:53
  4. Race against 1.5 1:20