Tenor saxophonist Paul Heller at the age of 47 has already produced a discography many jazz musicians twice his age would be envious of. His latest release “Paul Heller meets Roman Schwaller marks his 11th release as a leader. Firmly rooted in the mainstream the album nods back to the classic Texas Tenor style while at the same time reflecting the current state of jazz.
Paul Heller could rightly be seen as one of the busiest musicians on the European jazz scene and next to his already extensive discography as a leader Paul has appeared as either a guest soloist or sideman on over 70 releases. As a member of German’s renowned WDR Big Band and an in demand guest soloist, Paul Heller maintains a rigors performance schedule as well as being the artistic leader of the successful jazz concert series “Next Level Jazz” in Cologne’s “Stadtgarten”.
Heller and Schwaller first met twenty-five years ago, and have collaborated on numerous projects together including the celebrated project “Three Generations of Tenor Saxophone“ with Johnny Griffin. This recording however is the first time the two have recorded in this setting. Joining Heller and Schwaller on the album are Martin Sasse on Piano, Thomas Stabenow on Bass and Drummer Nicklas Walter. The Album was recorded in Cologne (Germany) in 2016 and according to the press release “The tracks were recorded in the “classical“ style, and in the exact running order (with a maximum of two takes) as they are to be heard on the album.” Three of the nine tracks on the album include overdubs performed by Heller with the purpose of adding an extra voice to the thematic sections.
The two Tenor players are mostly panned either left or right for clarity (who’s in what channel is clearly given in the album credits) however both players have a unique style and differentiating each of the horn players is not difficult. The album contains 9 tracks with five tracks composed by Heller. Roman Schwaller contributed track 2, “Some Changes In Life” and track 3 “Like Someone You Like”. This last track is an arrangement from Heller. The album is rounded out with two standards, Thelonious Monk’s “Ruby My Dear” and Johnny Griffen’s “You’ve Never Been There”.
The album opens with “Romanshorn”, a track written by Heller and dedicated to Schwaller. The track is titled after the town Romanshorn in Switzerland where Roman Schwaller was born. The track is a medium-up swing track with Schwaller taking first solo honours followed by Heller. it becomes immediately clear that while stylistically similar both players have their own distinctive voice. The track is rounded out by solo’s from pianist Martin Sasse before both horns re-enter trading with Drummer Nicklas Walter before returning to the theme.
Personal highlight on the album is the straight eight track “United”. This track see’s both tenor players stretching their reach stylistically while pianist Martin Sasse lays down a superbly crafted solo featuring some impressive left hand comping.
This album is far from a cutting edge album that moves the genre in a new direction however it’s also not just another Neo-Bop mainstream album. The album documents two of Europe’s best tenor players at the top of their game paying homage to a style of playing both players have truly mastered.
On first listen to the album it’s obvious why Sax legend Jimmy Heath said “This music touches me deeply. I can hear the brotherly passion“.
Having listened to this album many times since it arrived on my desk I can say this album “never get’s old”. Highly recommended.
1. Romanshorn | 2. Some changes in life | 3. Love someone you like | 4. Ruby my dear | 5. Ballad for Griff | 6. You’ve never been there | 7. United | 8. Quotation blues | 9. The tags I & II
Paul Heller: Tenor Saxophone
Roman Schwaller, Tenor Heller
Martin Sasse, Piano
Thomas Stabenow, Bass
Nicklas Walter, Drums
Mons Records – MR874603
Photo Credit: Feature Image – Gerhardt Richter
Last modified: October 24, 2018