The Lisa Wilhelm Quartett’s debut album Potpourri is released by BERTHOLD records on February 24th 2023. The line up: Lukas Wögler (saxophone), Moritz Langmaier (piano), Franz Blumenthal (bass), Lisa Wilhelm (composer and drums).
Wilhelm’s compositions are playful, controlled and melodic – a modern sound, yet influenced by the New York jazz scene as well as film music with which she grew up. The drummer, who leads the band and who composed all the tracks, says that the filmic influences are reflected in the titles of the songs. “I took quotes from movies I’ve seen and really liked, quotes which stuck in my mind. I liked the notion of putting them together as a potpourri, hence the album title.”
The opening song They’re falling in love (Aubade) refers both to the morning love song, and in the second part of the title to a quote from the 2015 film Youth by Paolo Sorrentino. “He’s one of my favourite directors,” says Wilhelm. “The title of the last track on the album – the Serenade – includes the second half of the film quote – But they don’t know yet. Serenade is the opposite of Aubade. Something you play in the evening. I just cut the quote – they’re falling in love, but they don’t know yet – in two.”
The song titles, admits Wilhelm, are more of an afterthought. She composes intuitively on the piano or sings ideas into her phone when travelling. “Then I listen to them and use what I like. The titles are meant to illuminate the compositional designs, melodies and harmonies. Sometimes I start with a groove as drummers do, but that’s an exception.”
The Guardian of the Infinite Abyss is a quote from the Zach Braff movie Garden State. “I love the movie, it’s amazing,” says the composer. “The quote fits the music because it creates a picture of leaping into the dark, though the movie itself isn’t dark. A guy is living in a caravan and someone says to him – you’re like the guardian of the infinite abyss. It’s the song where you can hear most of my drumming and the different layers and subdivisions. Maybe I’m the guardian of the rhythm.”
Me and You and Everyone we Know “is the title of a crazy Miranda July movie, with weird scenes and interesting people. Only Assholes go to Rome is a quote from the Sorrentino film ‘Hand of God’. I’ve never been to Rome, though I’ve always wanted to.”
There’s nothing wrong posing for a magazine is a quote from the actress Jayne Mansfield. Sophia, Rosa, Olympia, Margot is from “… a great, funny scene in ‘Hand of God’ where a young guy goes to a casting and is amazed to find himself in a room full of pictures of beautiful women.”
Wilhelm’s use of film quotes is as mischievous and imaginative as her drumming. Light and subtle, almost feather-like, she sees her playing as “not up front” but complementing her fellow musicians. Firmly in charge of her quartet, she views her role as “bringing the ideas which are then discussed together and worked out. I like to be supportive with a range of different sounds but I’ve also played hard rock so I can drum that way when I want to.”
She describes playing with the other quartet members as “magical from the beginning. They got the music right away. They captured the non-ego fragile sound. The vibe is beyond solo with accompaniments. It’s what the music needs.”
Langmaier on piano, plays with a smooth, soft touch and creates a relaxed multi-dynamic sound. Wögler on saxophone provides a subtle, airy feel to the music often using the higher range of the instrument, much liked by the composer, and Blumenthal on bass, classically trained, underlies the soundscape with accuracy and precision.
Wilhelm is already hard at work composing for future albums and the quartet members are looking forward to taking their debut recording on concert tour. “Our music is not just for jazz audiences,” says Wilhelm. “We want to give a whole range of music lovers a really nice experience.”