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J. Dennis – CD “Stepping Out”von Pago Libre

And when Breinschmid unleashes his bass statements, big time magic ensues. I was skeptical about anyone replacing Patumi, but this guy has monster chops as well as an uncannily centered tone and improvabilities into the stratosphere.


CD “Stepping Out” von Pago Libre

Der Höhepunkt der CD ist das 9. Stück, “Rasende Gnome”. Ein Schlager eigentlich, der hier seine avantgardistische Variation erfährt und vollkommen hinreisst, da bin ich nur noch “ganz Ohr” ! Himmlisch schräg das Stück, und zart wie ein Eis brechendes Frühlingsgewässer, voll Kraft und Klarheit, und einer Eigenwilligkeit, die nur ganz grosser wundervoller Humor ist. Ein Virus! Ungeübte Ohren können sich erst an den “Fehlern” stossen, bis sich die Burschikosität der überschwänglichen Note in den Sinnen festsetzt und nicht mehr loslässt. Ganz große Klasse, wie die vier Musiker dieses Stück, und nicht nur dieses, zusammen zu dieser Grandiosität bringen.

Fred Grand

CD “Stepping Out” von Pago Libre

Now the only remaining member of the original Pago Libre, pianist John Wolf Brennan has steered the group through over 15 years of what has best been described as “pan-European new music”. Despite several personnel changes, including the unveiling of a new bassist for this recording, the elements of the Pago Libre sound have remained remarkably intact.
For newcomers to the group, chamber-esque sonorities and a springkling of the folksiness of Bartók are fused with the rhythmic exuberance of jazz, Gaslini-esque Italian wit and the unpredictable musical anarchy of Amsterdam’s ICP. Whilst critical opinion may be divided over the appeal of “Eurojazz”, not even the sternest detractor of this type of hybridism could deny Pago Libre’s panache or longevity within the genre.
Stepping Out consolidates earlier achievements, and the nearly 15-minute long “Intrada” may well be their most significant statement to date. A suite-like epic drawing on Shilkloper’s knowledge of European composition as much as his passion for the continent’s folk music, it also shows us that he’s at last found a suitable post-Moscow Art Trio home for his talents. The solo bass passage towards the end of the piece really drops the jaw, marking out Breinschmid as a worthy replacement for the estimable Daniele Patumi.
Elsewhere in this well-balanced and enjoyable hour we get a reprise of the breezy “W 9th Street”, a Shilkloper horn solo of trombone-like agility on the freebop romp “Step Out (Into the Open)”, an honest stab at chamber-funk {“Let it find U”) and even a ghostly remix of the Hitchcock waltz to bring the disc to a close.
Despite touching so many bases, “eclectic” probably isn’t a word you’d use to describe Stepping Out. A tight group identity ensures that the music’s many facets are seamlessly blended in a way that is refreshingly uncontrived.
Mingus once suggested in an interview that rather than copy black American jazz, Europeans should explore their own musical heritage, from classical to folk, to develop an authentic form of jazz. Not only would he enjoy the massive bass of Georg Breinschmid, I’m sure he’d appreciate Pago Libre’s efforts to do just this. Recommended.


Newsletter Dec. 2005 – Bruce Lee Gallanter – CD “Stepping Out” von Pago Libre

This appears to be the sixth fabulous disc from this marvelous international quartet that features Arkady Shilkloper on horns (flugel, French & alphorns), Tscho Theissing on violin, John Wolf Brennan on piano and Georg Breinschmid on bass. John Wolf Brennan is one of my favorite and most consistently creative pianists and can be found on some thirty discs on Leo or Creative Works. Arkady Shilkloper is a legend from Russia, yet can mainly be heard on discs from Pago Libre. “Stepping Out” is not the usual improvised disc associated with labels like Leo, it is filled with some incredible songs, as well as wonderful playing. All four members contribute compositions.
Considering there is no drummer involved, their great acoustic bassist provides much of the rhythm team parts. The pieces are filled with intricate and demanding parts, the melodies themselves are often folk-based in their sound. The horn, violin, piano and acoustic bass sound like the perfect quartet playing those memorable tunes that you will not forget very easily. Arkady’s “Intrada” is a haunting and beautiful work with Brennan playing magically inside the piano and then taking an incredible solo, as does the horn and violinist.
We’ve a bunch of these discs so far, by just playing it inside the store and having folks marvel at the superb songs and playing. Bassist Georg Breinschmid is the new guy in this quartet and in some ways is the center of this great quartet, his strong playing and tasty tone helps guide many of these pieces. This is a completely outstanding effort on all counts, although there is not much that is very out!

Art Music Lounge / Lynn René Bayley

Oktober 2018 – CD Mussorgsky Dis-Covered

In the brief notes I’ve seen regarding this CD, which was apparently released in 2011 (but I never heard of or saw a copy until I went hunting for it online), violinist and arranger Tscho Theissing insists that, despite the unusual combination of instruments and the style in which it is played, this album has nothing to do with “jazzing up” Mussorgsky in the strict sense of the term. “The ambitious concept of my arrangements was to use Mussorgsky’s musical material and my own imagination and my experience both as a classical and a jazz musician to create a landscape in which both are fused,” he writes. “The pieces combine the power of Mussorgsky’s compositions with our improvisatorial ambitions in such a manner that the voice retains the latitude to do what Mussorgsky intended it to do.”

Yet mezzo-soprano Elisabeth Kulman, who is the centerpiece of this disc, also commented that she took “liberties that burst the classical boundaries, particularly with regard to musical expression. In addition, some of the pieces that Tscho wrote for me allow me to integrate the sound of the instrumental parts, for example in the game of question and answer with the alphorn in ‘Darling Savishna’ and the dreamy vocalises in ‘Il sogno della bambola’.”

Thus what we have here is a perfect fusion of classical and jazz elements in fixed compositions with an unusual orchestration: violin, French horn, piano and bass with vocals. I should also add that, although Theissing claims no real jazz is in the scores, they are clearly played with a swing, and bassist Georg Breinschmid slaps his instrument as strongly as Steve Brown or Bob Haggart ever did. (Look them up if you don’t know who they were.) And the liveliness of the accompaniment is clearly an inspiration to Kulman. Normally a lively singer in any case, she is almost wildly uninhibited in several tracks on this album, particularly the opening Gopak. Moreover, I suspect that the “drunken genius” Mussorgsky, as he is referred to in the notes, would probably have grabbed a liter of vodka and thoroughly enjoyed the proceedings here. I also believe that, despite his protestations to the contrary, that not only Theissing but pianist Antoni Donchev are improvising their solos in Gopak and other tracks as well.

The famed Song of the Flea is a bit more circumspect in comparison to Gopak, but still looser in rhythm than it is normally sung (and especially played). Here, Kulman’s long experience as a great lieder interpreter serves her well; she is surely the best female singer of this well-worn song I’ve ever heard. Interestingly, Theissing adds some unusual shifts of harmony beneath the middle section of it, and swings the second half strongly. Listening to the way the quartet starts out in Ozornik, they almost sound like Spike Jones’ City Slickers. No fooling! But Kulman manages to remain centered on the text, with fabulous results. Theissing also shifts the rhythm from 4/4 to 3/4 briefly in the middle, and the squawking French horn at the end also sounds like something Spike Jones would have thrown in.

Next up is a Theissing original, Prelude, Groove and Drift, based on themes from Khovanshchina, Boris Godunov and A Night on Bald Mountain, the latter two instantly recognizable to Mussorgsky buffs. This one is quite a production, going on for ten minutes, and begins in a much more conventional classical style than the preceding three pieces, though it later moves into jazz rhythm with Arkady Shilkloper’s French horn solo. It is also purely instrumental, excluding a brief wordless chorus sung by the quartet, but it leads directly into a slow, sinuous arrangement of the “Serenada” from the Songs and Dances of Death, which halfway through assumes a jazz beat with (to my ears) improvised solos. Kulman is stupendous on this one.

Next up is Miki Skuta’s Lapse, subtitled “a meditation on the first and last three piano chords of ‘Trepak’,” after which we get the Trepak from Songs and Dances of Death itself, which becomes rather wild about a minute in. The only non-Mussorgsky piece on here, Theissing’s Il sogno della bambola, is a lyrical piece that uses Mussorgsky-inspired harmonies. It’s difficult to describe, but it includes a vocalise by Kulman that is very interesting and well done, and the tempo picks up at the three-minute mark to become quite wild. Then comes a song from Mussorgsky’s song cycle The Nursery, sung with smoldering intensity by Kulman to an equally smoldering background.

Savishna at the Great Gate is a sort of meditation/improvisation by Theissing on the last number from Pictures at an Exhibition in which he sounds rather like a cross between Stéphane Grappelli (of the Hot Club Quintet of France) and David Balakrishnan (of the Turtle Island String Quartet). This leads directly into a highly rhythmic arrangement of Svetik Savishna, with Kulman falling in with the quartet’s rhythm perfectly. Her opening vocal is followed by an uptempo instrumental treatment of the melody, with the rhythm section jumping behind Shilkloper’s hot French horn and Theissing’s equally hot violin. The tempo just keeps slowly increasing, as in the old days of New Orleans jazz, before Kulman re-enters to join them, now sounding quite Gypsy-like. A wild bass solo by Breinschmid then ensues, with Theissing playing hot pizzicato violin behind him. This then leads into some wildly creative solos, particularly by Donchev on piano. When Kulman re-enters, the whole thing meshes together and rides out to the finish line.

Ballets Russes quotes a theme from Khovanschina, an uptempo piece that mostly rides on the piano and bass, with the violin adding commentary. The French horn cackles like a demented trumpet in the slow section, and the bass ends it. This leads into Breinschmid’s Modest Reflections, which starts with the “Song of the Volga Boatmen” before moving into other themes, mostly featuring Donchev’s piano. There’s a nice chase chorus between the violin and French horn, so to speak, before the tempo drops down and slowly picks up again, featuring swinging half-choruses by the three principals (violin, French horn and piano). We end with the Ballets Russes Finale, an uptempo version of track 12 that runs only 38 seconds.

Sadly, an album such as this has a limited appeal. Jazz buffs don’t want to hear classical forms or a classical vocalist, and classical fans abhor jazz in their music. But HOLY CRAP IS IT GOOD! You’ve got to hear this one!

Salzburger Volkszeitung (A)

February 2007 – CD “Against the Wind” of the Christian Muthspiel-Trio

Muthspiel amalgates his chameleonlike trombone playing with Frank Toriller´s floating vibes and the down to earthy groove of Georg Breinschmid. With unprecedented clarity they put on display the rough edges of the Pirchner /Pepl compositions in all their variety. A celebration!

Jazz Now

April 2003 – Lawrence Brazier – CD “Muse” of Flip Philipp

Right off one must say that this is great music. (…) The inimitable Georg Breinschmid lends a helping hand and the rest of the guys contribute professionally and with not little sensitivity.

Double Bassist 2002

CD “Mauve”

Austrian Georg Breinschmid’s accomplished lines (…) belie the fact that he began concentrating on Jazz bass as recently as 1999. His experience in various major Viennese orchestras has endowed him with formidable technique, which, combined with his innate feeling for improvisation, threatens to make him a considerable talent.

52nd Street Reviews

Summer 2000 – Don Williamson – CD “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love”, Vienna Art Orchestra

For example, I wager that “Take the A-Train” is unlike any other arrangement of the tune. Starting with a bass clarinet and acoustic bass duo that alludes to the melody but certainly doesn’t replicate it until Breinschmid and Dickbauer are good and ready to do so, the stripping down of the instrumentation allows the listener to marvel at the cameraderie, but more importantly, at the truly outstanding musicianship of the two. Breinschmid’s rapid-fire bass would leave the mouths of any audience agape at his seemingly impossible speed and his emphasis upon melody.


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