Jan von Klewitz and I have finally released our first Duo album Facing Duality. We are on CD release tour in September & October.
I had an amazing time in Iceland where I played two concerts at the Harpa Concert Hall. The first concert was with Sigurdur Flosason and his quartet. After three rehearsal days, I conducted the Reykjavik Big Band with my original music.
Happy to be supported by the Berlin Senate for Culture & Europe to make our 6th & 7th year of the Maria Baptist Orchestra monthly concert series in Berlin happen!! Very honored to have received the fund for the third time!!!
Hong Kong calling! Jan and I will perform at the Hong Kong International Jazz Festival in September. We also received a travel fund by the Berlin Senate for this journey.
I had an amazing trip to London playing with my UK rhythm section at 606 jazzclub, a beautiful piano solo concert in Lyon on an epic stage and an equally wonderful solo concert and premiere in Liechtenstein.
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If you have a closer look on the 30-year career of multi-award winner Maria Baptist, you will of course quickly notice the superlatives the pianist and composer is celebrated with: “role model of a new jazz generation” (ZDF), “key figure of modern jazz” (All About Jazz) or simply the “German Jazz Queen” (Abendblatt). Clearly – she is one of the most popular female figures in jazz in Europe today.
Maria Baptist presents her music in a wide artistic range – her creative work oscillates from one extreme of improvising an entire concert alone at the piano to the other: leading her jazz orchestra with her original music and playing at the same time. And then in addition everything else takes place in the field in between: her duo, trio and quartet.
Having an extremely productive output, Maria Baptist has released 14 albums to date, whereby her last two works, Here & Now 2 (2019) and Resonance (2018), have given her both, international exposure and access to highly-visible concerts like Jazz Baltica (DE), Nancy Jazz Pulsations (FR), Hong Kong Jazz Festival. Fun Fact: back in the 90s she gave a private concert for Michael Jackson himself.
The Berlin-born musician was influenced on the one hand by her classical education in terms of her technical skills and her artistic aesthetics. On the other hand, her time in New York City had a strong impulse on how Maria Baptist could develop as an improvising artist and equally as an orchestra composer and band leader. She learned the craft of writing for big band from Maria Schneider herself.
The one thing that unites her diverse artistic work is her unique voice – “highly emotional, evocative and vivid as life” (All About Jazz) – it can be heard in every one of Maria Baptist’s projects. And there is also a thematic connection to her work: her relationship to meditation can be found in many of her latest compositions.
Apart from her artistic career, Maria Baptist is a university professor for composition & improvisation at the Hanns Eisler School of Music Berlin.
Solo Piano is the great antagonist to Maria Baptist’s orchestral work – out-composed structures, an architect-like precision contrasted to free improvisation and compositional sketches. And certainly: those who are familiar with Maria Baptist’s work will also feel the influence of her large orchestra on her improvisational work.
Her unique voice – “highly emotional, evocative and vivid as life” (All About Jazz) – can be heard in every one of Maria Baptist’s recordings.
Her 2018 album Resonance, unlike its prequel Self-Portrait (2014), moves away from the classical song form and takes a leap to a clearly improvisational style.
Resonance outlines Maria Baptist’s relationship to music and mindfulness — and by extension, inspires her listeners to dive deeper into the present moment with her. The music she recorded is as intellectually compelling, as it is emotionally intense – it is filled with magical moments that resonate with the listeners’ soul.
While the last year was fully dedicated to the release of Maria Baptists follow-up Orchestra album Here & Now 2 (2019) which has brought her great international recognition both as a composer and bandleader (“this album should cause listeners‘ ears to perk up in the U.S.” DOWNBEAT), the preparations for her new Duo project, which will celebrate CD release on September 10, have been taking place in the background:
Maria Baptist has teamed up on Facing Duality with world class saxophone virtuoso Jan von Klewitz. One can certainly see this collaboration as an organic progression of the last years – Jan von Klewitz can be heard in Maria Baptist’s orchestra as well as in her trio. In their piano-saxophone duo the two now move even closer together.
However, for attentive concert-goers, this shouldn’t come out of the blue – after all, both have already been on tour extensively in this formation and have even been invited to the Hong Kong Jazz Festival 2019.
Facing Duality continues the thematic line of Maria Baptist’s previous albums: While Resonance (2018) addressed meditation and Here & Now 1+2 (2016,19) focused on mindfulness, Facing Duality, as the title suggests, deals with the principle of duality. The album does not aspire to show the contrast between two opposing poles, but rather points to the obvious duality that expresses an unspoken unity.
In this way, the two musicians, beyond their different personalities as soloists, form an organic body of sound. Maria Baptist’s compositions focus on the intuitive interaction of the two musicians.
In this sense “Facing Duality” reflects this inherent unity in everything.
Although in recent years large orchestral productions such as her album series Here & Now 1+2 (2016, 2019) and her piano solo album Resonance (2018) have been prominent in Maria Baptist’s artistic work – bringing her both high-profile exposure and promoting her to the international stage with concerts at key festivals – the trio remains an essential part of Maria Baptist’s artistic career:
She gave her first public concert in a trio line up and throughout her career repeatedly dedicated an album to this intimate formation: Crazy Dreams (2000), Music for my Trio (2006), Spring in Berlin (2010), Gate 29 (2012), Poems without Words (2017), whereby the latter opened up to a quartet with Jan von Klewitz as a guest.
Over the years the ensemble has established itself as one of the most important trios from Germany and is also regarded among the “most exciting jazz formations in Europe” (artistic director 12on14 Jazzclub), playing with “high technical skills and musical intelligence” (AAZ) while at the same time creating “deep worlds of sounds that are so rarely heard in Europe” (Cosmo Scharmer). One of the concert critics has pointed out that a “performance by the Maria Baptist Trio is like a musical revelation”.
Jan von Klewitz (sax), Fabian Timm (bass), Heinz Lichius (drums)
Over the past few years, Maria Baptist has established her profile as an international pianist with her solo recording Resonance (2018) and her quartet album Poems without Words (2017), and has strengthened this profile with highly visible concerts at festivals such as Jazz Baltica or the Hong Kong Jazz Festival. Now she is once again focusing entirely on her skills as a composer with her sequel album Here & Now 2 for her jazz orchestra on which the DOWNBEAT states: “it should cause listeners‘ ears to perk up in the U.S.”
Supported by Baptist’s 16-piece ensemble, which features a first-class line-up of musicians, Maria Baptist transfers her aesthetic and unique style to Here & Now 2. The seven new, complex compositions emphasize the uniquely creative voices and individual personalities of each member of the band. Here & Now 2 reflects on the present moment, on what represents the “here & now” in a broader sense.
The Maria Baptist Orchestra is one of the leading big bands in the pulsating Berlin jazz scene. They have been playing their monthly concert series at Kunstfabrik Schlot since 5 years. The Berlin Senate supports the Orchestra with a jazz funding and their previous album Here & Now was nominated for the German Record Critics‘ Award. The music, all composed by Maria Baptist, has been seen “in a league with the key figures of modern Big Band Jazz such as Schneider, Gruntz, McNeely and Bley” by All about Jazz.
Rhythm: Piano-Maria Baptist, Bass-Fabian Timm, Drums-Heinz Lichius Reeds: David Beecroft, Jan v. Klewitz, Niko Zeidler, Richard Maegraith, Nik Leistle Trombones: Julius Hopf, Jan Landowski, Rasmus Holm, Christopher Sauloff Trumpets: Greg Bowen, Fabian Engwicht, Ruben Giannotti, Eddie Hayes