The only professional musician in his family, TimoVollbrecht was nonetheless surrounded by music from early on. “My grandfather is a passionate music lover with an old Steinway piano. My father was into Jazz and classical music, my Mom was into dance, especially ballet. It was just an artsy environment. My father gave me a toy saxophone as a kid and I would pretend to play with the records. At some point I wanted a real one.”
Timo grew up in Stadthagen, a small town near Hanover, Germany. “There was nothing really going on, except we had a very dedicated music teacher at school. There was a big band in high school and I desperately wanted to play in it. I got introduced to Jazz through that, and now that I was a saxophone player, I needed to buy Jazz records. I went to the local CD shop and picked one CD where there was a saxophone on it and it was a really good catch because it was a Sonny Rollins record.”
Then, listening to Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Wayne Shorter, Timo Vollbrecht explains that, “…a lot of influences swirled around me. Nowadays, I’m very influenced by my mates, my friends. People that I play music with. I love Mark Turner, who I studied with, Stefon Harris, vibraphone player and people outside of Jazz, like Radiohead.” The result is a dynamic fusion, rooted in Jazz, but with elements of post-rock, indie-rock, minimalism and classical music.
The eclectic mix is beautifully portrayed on this CD. Timo wrote most of the pieces himself. “I was waiting. I took my time to make my first record as a bandleader. You know how a lot of people, especially when they are younger, feel obliged to get a record out. The music evolved and developed over years. I played a long tour in Latin America, which really helped shape the music. The tunes are all very different. On the one hand, I hope there is a unifying factor, but every piece is a world on its own. It’s like painting a picture. This piece has this colour, this line, this groove, this story. ..
…Pretty Now is definitely influenced by minimalism. I was looking to Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and John Hollenbeck, who was a teacher of mine in Berlin. Slothchops is so called because in our society today everybody tries to be faster and better and stronger., especially in the Jazz scene. That’s not really what the essence of it is or can be. The sloth is a fascinating animal, because it does everything the other way around. Its weapon is to chill, and if there’s danger, it just doesn’t move…we thought if somebody has deep musical meaning, a true soul, we said – this guy’s a slothchop. The tune Paco was inspired by the Flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucía. I lived in Barcelona, Spain for a while and I played with some Flamenco cats down there. It was a great experience. Truffles, that’s inspired by my grandfather who is a confectioner.”
Timo Vollbrecht’s compositions are a framework for spontaneous exploration. He gives freedom to his fellow musicians to be creative and says that’s when the magic can really start to happen.
Keisuke Matsuno, on guitar, was born in Berlin and grew up in Germany, though his parents are Japanese. He nows lives in Brooklyn. Timo describes Keisuke, his best friend and artistic collaborator, as, “… a magician when it comes to sound, because he is a sound artist, very good at laying out soundscapes.”
Sam Anning, bassist, comes from Australia. “He came to New York the same year I did,” says Timo. “and we met here. The reason I love him so much as a bass player, is because he has such great taste. He is very strong on the one hand, but on the other very gentle. He is delicate. He’s a great dude.”
Jason Burger on drums is the youngest and shows great energy. Timo describes him as an enfant terrible with great taste and a really nice feel and balance. “One of the things that’s very important to me,” he explains, “is to have people in the band I can connect with on a personal level as well, I think that is really important for making music, because in the end it is the expression of human spirit and human soul. And you do that with other people.”
Apart from New York, the quartet has played in Berlin, toured Panama, Haiti, and Dominican Republic, and performed in Australia and Singapore. Timo remembers one striking moment of improvisation in Palestine; during a tour of the Middle East. “I was playing on a roof top in Ramallah. There was a mosque right next to the building. While we were playing the Muezzin started chanting and it was the same time as we were doing some free improv. We played with the chant and integrated it into what we were doing. It was one of the most magical experiences I’ve had in music.”
Timo Vollbrecht takes his audience seriously. He thinks that not all musicians do. “You’re sharing the human soul. It might sound a little esoteric, but the audience plays a big part in the musical experience. It’s a give and take and even if it sometimes seems that they are passive, they’re not really. They feel alive; that’s really magical. I try to play one song for each member of the audience. Even if it’s only one song they really can connect with, they come out having a truly valuable experience. It’s more than entertainment. Entertainment’s great, but it’s really – honesty somehow. So with the music I put ourselves out there, the way we are. As soon as you fake things, you lose it.”
The diversity of New York has been particularly inspiring for the saxophonist. “ It keeps you on your toes.” He finds Berlin rather slow paced but also with a very creative and powerful music scene. He sees himself very much as a Berlin musician with his roots in its musical scene, though he feels very European rather than German. Still, Timo’s confectioner grandfather from Stadthagen maintains the link by sending him truffles wherever in the world his grandson happens to be.