Serambi Jazz: max.bab : The Report


Ever since the Serambi Jazz started its mission in 2009 we have been getting two bands all the way from Germany not only to perform but also to give workshops. That means the selected bands should be able, and willing, to share they knowledges to the participants. Yes, only two per year, so maybe that’s why the choice made by the curator Riza Arshad and Goethe Institut have been tremendously well. We have seen highly skillful bands presenting unique concepts or themes. Some brought poetic jazz, some with other kinds of arts such paintings and some gave portraits of landscapic scenery into streams of melody. We are happy and lucky to have this opportunities. For us personally, we know now that the German jazz has been developing so well. Some people might easily thought that it’s all about ECM, but actually now there are many bands who have invented their own concepts, stretching wider and further than the classic ECM style.

We have witnessed many of them before, now here comes a very interesting band consists of considerably young but explorative and artistic musicians. It’s max.bab. The name might make you wonder of the meaning. But there’s no mystery at all behind it. Max stands for saxophonist Max von Mosch, then BAB is taken from the rhythm section player’s name: Benedikt Jahnel (piano), Benjamin Schäfer (bass) and Andi Haberl (drums). Other than the name of the personnel, the word max could also shown that they are always looking for something in MAXimum. Not the maximum loudness or complexity inside the compositions, but instead it’s more to maximal range of concept in developing their journey in music, collectively. For their Asian tour including their visit to Indonesia brought by Goethe Institut’s Serambi Jazz, the formation are Max von Mosch (tenor/soprano sax), Benedikt Jahnel (piano), Andi Haberl (drums) and Henning Sieverts (contrabass), replacing Benjamin Schäfer.

Many people believe that max.bab is the answer of German Jazz future. And that’s really not exaggerating at all. Listen to them, you will notice beautiful melodies attached with lots of feeling within right away. That said without denying the fact that they are explorative in enjoying the spontaneous improvisations. This approach enables max.bab to win the hearts of jazz fanatics and the non jazz fans as well. We received many praises from our readers after watching the streaming video via youtube that we added at the event info. They really know how to pour out their emotion for us to feel with their music. They can make us feel like admiring a painting or drown inside a heartfelt poem. Two years ago max.bab released their first album “Inner Orbit” under the German jazz label ACT-Music and received critical acclaims right away. While the album was supposed to be an outerspace travelling musical experience, they didn’t fall into the trap of playing the predictable synthesized ‘spacey’ sound effects like bleeps and so on like what we often found inside the space travelling concept in an album. There’s a brilliant cover of Esbjörn Svensson‘s song, “From Gagarin’s Point of View” inside the album too. We have listened to it, and we got the impression like a jazz quartet joins a group of astronouts inside a rocket, playing music while doing a space exploration. Such an album surely deserved to be well praised.

Max.bab’s journey started in 1999 when Max von Mosch joined the Bavarian Regional Youth Jazz Orchestra and met the other three players Benedikt Jahnel (piano), Benjamin Schäfer (bass) and Andi Haberl (drums). Since then they landed everywhere, gracing 400 stages and maintaining their existance with 6 released albums. They have received many achievements as well. They won the International band compestition in Usti nad Laben of Czech Republic, the Bavarian State competition Jugend Jazzt in Marktoberdorf, the national jazz youth competition Jugend Jazzt in Erfurt, the international band competition Biberacher, the Young Jazz Award Tübingen and grabbed the sponsoring prize of Baltic Sea Jazz Festival.

Henning Sieverts who replaced Benjamin Schäfer is not a stranger to us. This ECHO JAZZ 2010 Award winner in the form of Henning Sieverts’ Symmetry Quintet for his album “Blackbird” has performed in Serambi Jazz on October 8 and 9, 2009. At that time he brilliantly presented a very unique concept called “Blauer Riter”, playing some compositions inspired by a legendary group of German artists from a century ago called “Der Blaue Riter”, or in English means The Blue Rider. We know how great Sieverts play his contrabass, and we’re very excited to see him again when we saw his name in the lineup. (Read the report of that event from Bandung and Jakarta, and check out our interview with Sieverts).  Sieverts started joining them in the first trip to Bangkok. He said, “For me, energy from the group is important, and I really feel it with these guys.”  He also stated that he have known them for quite a long time, they have played together once in a while in other bands,  so it wasn’t difficult for them to team up.

Couple of hours before they started the concert, they held a musical clinic to serve all questions from local Bandung jazz musician. All of them gladly shared everything they know, either technics, experiences and other things that would be beneficial to the clinic participants. Some of the participants told us that they were really happy with the short clinic. Some of them went back to the band members to talk some more after the concert ended.

They started right after the welcome greeting and a little introduction by the Cultural programme coordinator Mrs Sulastri Madjid and Serambi Jazz’ curator Riza Arshad. They hooked the audience right away from the first song “Star City” with a streaming melodious lines that were easy to chew. It sounded country-like fresh, ear catchy and really loveable. Benedikt Jahnel left his chair and introduced her band fellow. The intensity rose by each of the players on the next song “Inter Stellar Exit”. Here we could feel their emotion better flowing naturally out from each instrument. Max stood in front, playing wild with his sax.

The third song “Just a Sad Melody”, started with Henning Sieverts played the solo bass, and the others followed by playing the instruments with classical style, but the jazz-flow still touched down the floor. This number was perfectly brought a smooth fusion color. Clock ticking sound from drums and piano started the fourth song “Human Intent” . In this song Andi Haberl got enough space for solo drum exhibition that gave him bags of applauses from the crowds. Uniquely enough, Benedikt did something rare by playing the piano string directly and not the keys in this song. Next song was “Roses in the Corner”, where they brought the magical jam-session like nuance from that era when bop was borned. They filled the air with full energy from the instruments. And that was the end of the first part.

Second part was started. A song called “Prophecy” opened it with contemporare jazz style. The bassist and drummer made an awesome duel show. This song will appear in their upcoming new album. The concert continued on with “152nd St.” with some echoing nuance played in real by them and again they brought a good mood control along this one. The mellow solo sax by Max started the next song, “Boston Sky”. As nice as the night was, we finally came to the end. They played “Lasalle” to seal up the whole concert. They brought a wild experimentative sounds that blew everybody’s mind. Max the sax player plays a great bop. But yet he really knows when he has to use bop tunes and when he has to switch to more contemporary style or even just following the grooves. This last presentation made the audience gave a standing applause. However, they still wanted some more. They kept on clapping their hands and wouldn’t stop until the band gave them an encore. Looking at the situation, max.bab came again and gave some love to the audience by playing one last song. Another standing applause rewarded to them, and that wrapped the whole concert. We approached Max and asked him about how jazz is going today in Germany. He agreed that it wasn’t just all about ECM anymore. “At least since 20 years ago the young jazz players have been developed their own style. Especially in Berlin, you can have all kinds of jazz right now.” said Max von Mosch.

One of the senior guitarists who also owns a music school Venche Manuhutu expressed his satisfaction to us of this concert. “They play really neat. You can see that they are explorative and even some times experimenting, but still they can keep everything in the pocket.” he said. He also stressed that this kind of event is really important if we want to have a good jazz development in Indonesia, especially in Bandung. “May there be more bands like this..they shared their knowledge and experience, and then we watched them play. It’s really good for the educational side of jazz” he said joyfully.  Yes, we absolutely agree with him. We really need this kind of event that can bring not just the entertainment but also the education. Thanks to Goethe Institut, Riza Arshad and everyone behind Serambi Jazz, all of these are now made possible.

Das war wunderschön. Max.bab has successfully presented set of songs that can really well described them as one of the best modern jazz’ German group. If some said they represent the future of German jazz, just by watching their concert and listening to their music, we know that we have to agree with it. Tonight they demonstrated perfect timing, phrasing and harmony between players as well as the importance of having good vibes to one another on stage. It was really an entertaining night. We extend our appreciation to Goethe Institut, Serambi Jazz, max.bab and everyone else behind this show. Thank you for quenching our jazz thirst with such an awesome show. For you who live in Jakarta, don’t miss max.bab’s performance tonight (Friday, September 30, 2011) at GoetheHaus Jakarta, starting at 7:30pm. We really enjoyed the concert in Bandung, now it’s your time to show your support and be entertained to the max, Jakarta! Bring yourself there and have a good jazzin’ time.

See more pictures:

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Reporter: Riandy Kurniawan, Bintang Steffy Tania, Ghea Sagita
Photographer: Kurnia Bayu Aji, Biru Segara