The BÖRT Quartet’s new album HANA is released by BERTHOLD records on the 28th May 2021. The line up: Theresia Philipp on saxophone and clarinet, Jonathan Hofmeister on piano, Jan Philipp on drums and Lukas Keller (who leads the band and composed most of the tracks) on double bass. All are based in Cologne,
“I’ve called the quartet BÖRT. I like the idea of the band having a name as if it were a living person – telling us stories,” says Keller. He and the other band members approach their music “with childish curiosity, always in search of the unexpected and mysterious, creating a field of tension between blind trust and reciprocal ruthlessness.”
The album’s title HANA (also one of the tracks) is the Japanese word for flower or blossom. “I have a special relationship to Japan,” explains Keller. “My girlfriend is Japanese and I’ve spent time in the country. In the track Hana we express the fragile and colourful meaning of the word, although, as in most songs I write, the title came after I’d written the music. It has a tricky melody played by Theresia in a smaller time-signature than the bass line.”
Skate relates to skateboarding, which Keller views as “a hobby not convenient for a musician. It can be dangerous but it’s fascinated me since childhood. I grew up in a small village near Aschaffenburg in Bavaria with no ramps. I was never going to make a great career out of it.” Now, Keller and the band’s pianist mostly watch, but they allow their music to glide, weave and pirouette.
Cohen Brothers written by Hofmeister is inspired by Israeli Jazz players, particularly the trumpeter Avishai Cohen. “I play the melody on the bass and sax accompanies me with soft long notes. This song allows us most scope for improvisation,” says Keller.
Typ (Type) – or as announced at concerts in its entirety “Ich bin nicht ganz mein Typ” (I’m not quite my own type) deals with Keller’s inner conflicts. “The music starts with doubts but evolves into an expressive melody leading to energetic improvisation,” he says.
Nach Norden is another spirited piece which the quartet particularly enjoys playing at concerts as it is so well received. “It was one of the first pieces I wrote for the group,” says Keller. “Inspired by Wayne Shorter and relating to Scandinavia, I was trying to capture the strengths of each band member. Theresa shows here how impressive, virtuoso and powerfully she plays.”
West Highlands was written after a journey to Scotland. “Up in the mountains,” says Keller “it’s one the few places on earth where everything you hear is nature. I had to get used to that. No cars, just wind. I was also inspired here by Ornette Coleman’s and Eric Dolphy’s free jazz, leaving space for the band to improvise.”
In Blau and China, Theresia Philipp is on clarinet as opposed to saxophone, showing that she masters all of the instruments that she plays.
Sweet Sewing Machine “is about a machine that can be loud, says Keller, “but sewing can be like a meditation and that is reflected in the music.”
Keller is an accomplished bass player, though he does not see the band as featuring his own instrument. He is very much a team player. “I want this ensemble to be four characters meeting each other. It doesn’t make sense to be too soloistic though I like doing solos, and I like improvising which I see as contrapuntal inside the band – filling gaps. You have to wait a few tracks for the first bass solo. I do appreciate working together with the other musicians. Jan plays subtly and nuanced and has a wide dynamic spectrum. He has his own sound language, clear musical ideas and always listens, a quality that I appreciate very much. I’ve played music with Jonathan as long as I’ve known him. An expressive and colourful pianist, we studied together and jammed and practised a lot. Every time I hear Theresia play, she touches me on all levels and I’m always proud to be playing with her. She tells a story and expresses her personality in her music. Above all she’s a beautiful human being – all three of them are.”
The BÖRT Quartet oozes vitality, dynamism and quality. As Keller explains, “…entrenched in jazz traditions, we nonetheless let our musical visions coalesce, embarking time and again on a journey into the unknown.” This young band already shows great promise and is blossoming in the true sense of the album’s title HANA.