Speaking Low

Is Jazz really having another renaissance at the moment? A lot of music critics swear by it. And If Kamasi Washington’s success is anything of a litmus test, that might just be the case. But then again, one could also argue that Jazz never really left, but that it only splintered and morphed and was reabsorbed in different capacities by peripheral genres; and, of course, it also continued to evolve in the inner circles. We don’t know the answer, but we’re happy to say that we got to sit down with two musicians that are currently carving their sound at the very vanguard of the current new wave. You might know drummer Julian Sartorius for his exploration of the idea of “the beat” on his epic Beat Diaries project, for which he committed 365 beats to vinyl. And you might’ve heard Frans Petter Eldh throwing down bass lines for the JamesZoo quartet, on Gilles Peterson’s BBC 6 show, just a couple of weeks back. The two of them are here to tell us a bit about their work with the mercurial singer Lucia Cadotsch. We are also honoured to premiere Speak Low, the title track from Lucia’s forthcoming record Speak Low renditions, which will see the light of day on April 27.

Last minute news: Congratulations Lucia and Petter for your ECHO Jazz nominations! Say hell from us to Esperanza Spalding and Gregory Porter.

BROOKLYN RADIO: Would you guys still say that this version of “Speak Low” should be filed under Jazz?

Frans Petter: There is so much improvisation in this version and also so much improv in the way I treated it in the post production so I’m fine with anyone calling it Jazz if that qualifies as a definition. Of course, the added electronics for some people might suggest something else. The album “September Songs” came to mind in the making of this remix, on that album Charlie Haden recorded his bass on top of the original recording of Kurt Veil singing his own song “Speak Low”. That was the first time I heard that song and I remember back then I was putting that version more into a Bristol kind of thing. The reason that I’m asking is that the term is used so broadly these days and it’s so charged with meaning that I sometimes wonder what it actually means in today’s context. On the one hand you still have the old guard and then there’s the neo-traditionalists like Kamasi, but then there’s Fly Lo, who also claims to be making Jazz, and then you got are these young bands that sound like Prog Rock to me, and they also use the label.

Julian Sartorius: I don’t think at all about genres. I’m not even interested in how to name or how to file a certain music. It just doesn’t matter to me.

Frans Petter: I still appreciate going into a record store and finding some weird shit in the jazz department.

BKR:Maybe it’s time for a name upgrade?

JS: I don’t care about names. I’d like to do the music, other people can invent a name for it.

FP: I get booked sometimes to add some jazz, I don’t mind that. It’s like a friendly virus. Everybody loves it.”

BKR: How did you guys meet Lucia? I know that Frans Petter, you are a part of the Speak Low” trio…

FP: I’ve known Lucia for something like 10 years. We met in Copenhagen and we’ve been doing a lot of different music throughout the years. I was really happy when she asked if I wanted to do something with all of those old beautiful songs.”

JS: I’ve met Lucia five years ago, when I’ve spent some time in Berlin. As we both grew up in Switzerland, I’ve heard a lot about Lucia from some friends in Switzerland. So I was happy to finally meet her.

BKR: So how did this version come about? Can you guys tell me a bit about the process, the session itself?

JS: We recorded it as a quartet (the Speak Low Trio plus me) in a studio in Berlin. The version that we recorded was based on a version we’ve played live before at some shows where I was a guest playing with the trio. Petter then did all the post-production on the track.

BKR: And Frans Petter, how was it for you to revisit the song, but this time outside of the trio?

FP: The version is pretty close to our original trio arrangement, but the texture Julian adds with his fast sixteenth note pattern gave it a certain tranquillity. Julian is such an imaginative musician and he’s always bringing something fresh to the table! It was also so much fun and so easy to bring it back to my samplers and add more layers.

BKR: When I first heard the song, the first thing that came to my mind was: this could easily be on Brainfeeder. What do you guys think of these scenes bleeding over, the so called new beats and Jazz?

JS: I really love when different scenes are bleeding over and new stuff emerges out of it. So I appreciate these developments a lot.

FP: I think it’s a really important development.

BKR: I definitely like how electronica and these progressive beats cats push the sound design forward, but when that meets some serious musicianship, that’s when the magic happens! Julian, you did some stuff with James Zoo recently, right?

JS: Yes, I’ve played drums on his record FOOL. Frans Petter played bass on that record.

FP: I also joined him live on stage for his tour. Heavy shit.

BKR: In closing, what should we expect from Speak Low renditions?

JS: Don’t have any certain expectations, just listen to it.

FP: Julian’s rendition is dope.