Room Scope Moon

The Hans Anselm Quintet’s new album Room Scope Moon is released by BERTHOLD records on October 8th 2021. The line-up: Gabriel Rosenbach on trumpet, Benedikt Schnitzler on guitar, Anna Wohlfarth on piano, Arne Imig on bass and Johannes Metzger on drums.

Combining the melodic and the electronic, this is superb, atmospheric music by an ensemble with an intriguing name. Hans Anselm is not a band member, so who is he? As Schnitzler, founder of the ensemble, explains “he’s our imaginary friend. He told us to start the band and he’s always there, but only we can see him, whispering the music to us. He’s like our common schizophrenic partner, sometimes ghost, sometimes human. He’s inspirational and gets us out of our comfort zone.”

If Hans Anselm provides the spirit and ideas for the quintet, it is Schitzler and Wohlfarth who actually write the music. Both prefer to bring basic tune structures to rehearsals as a starting point for the band to develop. “The result,” says Schnitzler is “a mix of electronic sounds, jazz and pulsating grooves. We still like to employ solos, but we also improvise and interact a lot with each other where it’s not clear who’s at the front, resulting in collective soundscapes.”

The ensemble chose Mindsquare as the opening track because, according to the guitarist, “we wanted to have an intro that builds into, as it were, a New World where we also fuse minimal elements with a repetitive groove. The track is poly-rhythmic, with shifting time signatures.” Wohlfahrth wrote the music and choses her titles “intuitively” as Schnitzler explains “when she feels it’s right – she takes it.”

Moon Song is a ballad, a homage and serenade to the moon – a track without drums. “We’ve tried to capture a night vibe,” says Schnitzler “and the special light, but the sound is a little melancholic.” Time “moves from the calm and beautiful to the harsh and dirty, almost rough in style. We morf the solos and try to get different energies into the song.”

Schitztler wrote the tune Quintanten. “I compose much more conceptually than Anna,” he explains. “I used quintuplets as the basic time for the ostinato, developed a techno-like beat, then had a theme flying over the whole groove.”

Echoes of Silence is the most lyrical song on the album. The guitarist explains that, although an almost contradictory concept, it is an attempt to introduce the notion of silence into modern jazz. “Listen carefully and you hear silence,” he explains. “We try to express how it can sound and feel.”

The Power of Thoughts “is a very rhythmic tune written by Anna. She said she’d tried to write a piece that sounded more like mine. We do that sometimes. It has a long build-up trumpet solo and is rhythmically difficult. It has a 7/4 time signature that runs over 4/4 beat that the drummer plays. The effect is intense.”

Dubious Encounter was written by Schnitzler. “It’s about weird, dubious encounters that you have in life with yourself or with other people – like Hans Anselm. But the song is simple and easy, still jazz though.”

When you listen to the album you can hear the fine musicianship of all five players, so it is hardly surprising that they won the Leverkusener Jazz Future Sounds competition in 2019, a prestigious prize for newcomers. “In the end though,” says Schnitzler “it’s all about how we communicate ideas, and with each other, how we transport the music as a whole and live up to the essence of the songs.” The result is a high quality album combining a melodic, groovy bass by Imig, an unusual use of sounds by Schnitzler on guitar, Metzger on drums complementing the music with “more organic” accents, and Rosenbach and Wohlfarth excelling on trumpet and piano.