American jazz composers and particularly the pianists have not been shy to take inspiration from Classical music over the years, since the time of Duke Ellington, and Art Tatum. Then there were pianists like John Lewis, of the Modern Jazz Quartet who integrated or synthesized improvisational jazz and Classical music as a new form, termed “Third Stream” by Gunther Schuller, in the late 1950s.
But European jazz pianists taking on the Classical masters is possibly a new take. Pianist David Helbock, from Austria, begins his album “Into the Mystic” (2016, ACT Music) with a solo version of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony, 2nd Movement, which is both meditative and soulful. This is followed by “The Soul” a composition by Helbock with his trio that sets the mood and direction for the rest of the album. Contemplative excursions with mystical undertones, while names of the tracks are far out too.
“Exodus to Star Wars” parts I, II, and III, and “Star Wars Theme” (by John Williams) are stellar jazz arrangements, to name just a few. Meanwhile, “Spiritual Monk” is a highlight, as a tender homage to Thelonious Monk, who is likely a spiritual guide to Helbock and the group, as well. The title track “Into the Mystic” is another standout, delving deepest into the mysteriousness of the trio’s interplay.
The solo piano track “Masks” best highlights Helbock’s playfulness, experimentation, and passion. On this track, he seems to be channeling at least the energy of one of the greatest solo jazz piano performances ever recorded—Keith Jarret’s live performance in Köln, 1975, which just may have also been an instance of Jarrett spiritually communing with the master, himself, Ludwig Van Beethoven.
Helbock, born in 1984, comes from a village in Austria called Koblach, along the Swiss border in the Alps. He always seems to be wearing a knitted skullcap similarly to the otherwise inimitable Joe Zawinul, Austria’s best-known jazz player, as keyboardist and composer, who passed away in 2007.
Helbock’s trio includes Raphael Preuschl on bass ukulele and Reinhold Schmölzer on drums (on their recordings), but on tour, he’ll be with the drummer H. Pirker. This trio will be on a short tour of the Czech Republic and Germany, kicking off in Prague, for the Mladi Ladi Jazz Festival, with further shows in the Czech Republic then onto Germany including a showcase concert at Jazzahead in Bremen.
The David Helbock Trio is on tour in Europe till the end of April.
Wednesday, April 19—Jazz Dock, Mladi Ladi Jazz Festival, Prague, Czech Republic
Thursday, April 20—Mladi Ladi Jazz Festival, Olomouc, Czech Republic
Friday, April 21—Mladi Ladi Jazz Festival, Czech Budweiser, Czech Republic
Saturday, April 22—Jazzfestival Ilmenau, Ilmenau, Germany
Thursday, April 27—Semiarturnhalle Stade, Stade, Germany
Friday, April 28—Jazzahead Bremen – Halle 7, Bremen, Germany
Saturday, April 30—Villa Rosenthal Jena, Jena, Germany
Text: Tony Ozuna
Images: Main Image: Astrid Dill
Sidebar Images: Astrid Dill, Lyn Balatbat, Severin Koller and Michael Schagerl.
YT Video: ACTMusicOfficial