In September 2017 the State Music Council of North Rhine-Westphalia awarded its SilverTuning Fork to MARKUS STOCKHAUSEN (its golden counterpart went to a completely different genre). The award provided an occasion for a concert with Stockhausen’s reconstituted band ETERNAL VOYAGE, which was kindly recorded by West German Radio 3 Jazzredaktion in Düsseldorf.
Though MARKUS STOCKHAUSEN has been known as a crossover artist for years, this band reaches an entirely new level of ensemble playing, a musical amalgam that packs a punch. Besides Stockhausen himself, the septet’s sound is essentially defined by the Persian musician ALIREZA MORTAZAVI, who plays a zither-like instrument known as a santur, and the Indian sitar virtuoso HINDOL DEB. But no less important are the contributions from Stockhausen’s wife, the Dutch clarinettist TARA BOUMAN, and the Lebanese singer RABIH LAHOUD, his longstanding confrère, who sings with sometimes spontaneously invented words in Arabic. Like Hindol Deb, two new musicians are working with Stockhausen for the first time: the German-Indian keyboard player JARRY SINGLA and the German-Polish percussionist BODEK JANKE, a virtuoso on the tabla. What we hear is, to a large extent, improvisations, with melodic themes from Stockhausen’s own pen. One example is the first piece, SEPTEMBER SONG, an elegiac essay that never once courts longueurs despite its 12 minutes’ duration. The other numbers likewise radiate a meditative serenity that is invariably tightly focused and inviting rather than soporific.
In AVANTI Stockhausen, Deb, Bouman and Lahoud bring off impressive unisono passages; ALAMEYN has almost hymnic qualities; and ALIREZA is, as might be expected, a showcase for Mortazavi. The entire concert abounds in riveting beauty and rare urgency. ETERNAL VOYAGE originated some ten years ago as a sextet and released its exciting first album in 2010. Of its original members, only Stockhausen, Bouman and Lahoud remain. But the band not only bears witness to the long-term planning that Stockhausen devotes to his various projects, it also serves as proof of the special affinity with which this flugelhorn player chooses musicians who fit himself and his band while having something of their own to say. Janke plays savagely and expressively, but also very precisely, and santur and sitar form an exquisite combination with their oriental flair. Singla is responsible for the harmonious cohesion of ETERNAL VOYAGE, functioning somewhat as the band’s rock-solid foundation. Lahoud and Bouman add special touches, spreading their wings and taking their listeners to unimagined heights. Enough ink has already been spilt on the unique tone and moving solos of bandleader Stockhausen. Suffice it to say that he never feels the need to place himself in the foreground; instead, he exudes a natural and warm-hearted authority – one quality among many that turns the album ETERNAL VOYAGE / L IVE into a genuine listening experience.
Rolf Thomas · Translation: J. Bradford Robinson