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  • Jonathan Widran


To fully grasp the momentous achievement of German born, NYC based composer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist (saxophonist, flutist, pianist) Chris Torkewitz finally releasing his epic Jazz Chamber Ensemble and Jazz Orchestra work NY Ensembles after nine years, the attentive listener should know some of his other epic achievements.

Among them, he has performed at Carnegie Weill Recital Hall, the Kennedy Center and for the German embassies in Toronto, DC and New York. He’s performed for Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela, and shared stages with legendary jazz figures like Bob Mintzer, Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano and Dave Liebman. Yet this historic concert recorded live in Studio 610 at Manhattan School of Music in 2013 stands an epic high point in his multi-faceted career.

From the plucky, whimsical strings and Jay Rattman’s freewheeling clarinet on the opening piece “Vista (Chamber Suite I)” through the haunting, lyrical and narratively dynamic closing string quartet closer “Ausblick,” the spirit of Torkewitz’s intention for NY Ensembles is captured eloquently in Scott Yanow’s excellent liner notes (part of the highly essential illustrated booklet in the packaging).

Moving to New York to attend the Manhattan School of Music (where he earned a Doctor of Musical Arts and his Master’s), Torkewitz says, “The most important thing I learned while there was to be fully dedicated to whatever I was working at, and to always take the music to the next level as a composer.” Yanow also notes, “While (he) has written extensively for jazz trios, quartets, and large ensembles, his 2013 concert is a milestone.”

That insight, complementing Torkewitz’s own brief rundown on the presented pieces - adds to our understanding of the intuitive balance of grace and intensity Torkewitz brings to life via these two great, specially assembled groups. The performance opens in with the Jazz Chamber Orchestra easing from the aforementioned “Vista” through the eloquent classical meets light jazz swing of “Farbtoene,” the edgier experimental adventure of “Noticias” (all over the stylistic map, like the crazy evening news most days) and the quick infectious, Afro-Cuban flavored romp “Epilogo.”

The six piece Jazz Orchestra segment runs from the boisterous, brassy, big band excitement of “Filou” through the snappy booming and colorful snazz of “One For You” before Torkewits wraps with the lighthearted, gently reflective ostinato based “Seiltanz” (scored for 11 players) and the previously mentioned “Ausblick” which brings the expansive ambition of the session back down to a softer spoken sense of closure and home, with ample time to reflect upon how that sense of home has been transformed.

Excited to finally be presenting the magical night of NY Ensembles for mass appreciation, Torkewitz says, “My frequent transatlantic crossings and cultural explorations led me to explore the tensions of what is near and far musically and brought me here and now to you, dear listener.”


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