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Vol d'automne
Bewertung Jazz'n'more.jpg

Wattenwyl's Stewy from Bern needs no introduction to jazz fans. On "Vol d'automne" - the album title, reminiscent of a French chanson, goes back to the pianist's own composition - he has teamed up with Alex Hendriksen. The saxophonist, who is part of the Basel scene, has been a confidante of Wattenwyl for many years and as such is the first choice for this duo project, which thrives on the blind consent of the protagonists. The two have put together a repertoire of eleven pieces that have one thing in common: their exquisite singing quality. With Jerome Kern, one of the "usual suspects" is among the authors, but also a Paul McCartney with "Blackbird" (one of his songs that jazz musicians often cover) or Michel Petrucciani. The two co-leaders also contributed to the program - though a special mention goes to Billy Strayhorn. Not because with "Lush Life" and "A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing" two compositions by the latter can be heard, but because the vocal quality of the duo von Wattenwyl-Hendriksen comes into its own in these two titles. The two approach their repertoire with a deliberate reserve, which places the interpretations entirely at the service of the respective pieces - just as if they were playing with their fingertips. George Modestin


Stewy von Wattenwyl presents a new selection of songs from George Gershwin's 1935 folk opera Porgy and Bess. By George Modestin

George Gershwin's "folk opera" "Porgy and Bess", which premiered in Boston on September 30, 1935, enjoys continued popularity, although the work has not been judged uncontroversially in the past: the focus of discussion was the fact that it It is a production written by a white man and set in a black milieu marked by poverty and crime. The controversies did not detract from the popularity of Gershwin's music, especially as it developed a life of its own: numerous songs from the Singspiel were taken out of the overall framework and mutated into evergreens, especially in jazz. There are jazz versions of "Porgy and Bess" by Hank Jones, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis and Gil Evans, Oscar Peterson or, more recently, Joe Henderson. What all of these adaptations have in common is that they concentrate on a selection of individual songs, while the main plot of the opera recedes into the background.

The version prepared by pianist Stewy von Wattenwyl is no exception in this respect: it contains some of the most well-known numbers such as ”It Ain't Necessarily So”, ”I Got Plenty of Nuttin'” or - the evergreen! – ”Summer time”. In addition, however, less familiar titles can also be heard, such as the atmospherically extremely dense discovery "Oh, Doctor Jesus". The music is performed by a sextet, with Daniel Bohnenblust on alto saxophone, Daniel Woodtli on trumpet and flugelhorn and singer Nicole Herzog forming the front line.

Especially Nicole Herzog is an ideal cast for the expressive, decidedly “scenic” songs. According to Stewy von Wattenwyl, this latest "Porgy and Bess" version was created at the request of the Thurgau boat builder Stefan Züst, who also organizes jazz concerts. The CD contains the recording of the first performance in Züst's shipyard in Altnau on Lake Constance. The happy exuberance inherent in the recordings is undoubtedly due to the live situation, with the band only rehearsing twice after the arrangements were completed, and only once with Nicole Herzog. According to von Wattenwyl's praise, "It speaks for the professionalism of my colleagues that they managed everything with this quality."


The preparations were demanding: According to von Wattenwyl, the greatest challenge was “first of all, putting together the most attractive selection possible from the complete works. Then there was the transcription of the songs, of which only a few and sometimes faulty sheets could be found in Real books. But then also the reduction of the orchestral originals to the small format of a sextet and ultimately finding a reasonable balance between specifications and one's own ideas, i.e. also the reharmonization and the use of non-jazz instruments such as the shruti box and the melodica".

The deeper Stewy von Wattenwyl delved into Gershwin's world, the more he understood, in his own words, “the power and depth that lies in this music and also in DuBose Heyward's libretto. It's the blues that sets the tone and continues to provide timeless fascination to this day."

Porgy & Bess

Even three quarters of a century after the creation of the "Porgy & Bess" opera by American Songbook icon George Gershwin , the opera by American Songbook icon can be reworked, including of course classics such as Listening to "It Ain't Necessarily So" or the inevitable "Summertime" consistently and with great grace - Stewy von Wattenwyl  essentially leaves the sheer sound in retrospective habit and only relies on contemporary jazz interspersion in the technical, that is to say musical implementation - "Porgy & Bess" breathes.

This is also ensured by the voice of Nicole Herzog, who knows how to implement the soulful states of jazz opera in a clear, catchy and highly emotional way, while at the same time subordinating herself almost nobly to the big picture - that's how music works. Dass „Porgy & Bess“ von Stewy von Wattenwyl featuring Nicole Herzog ein Konzert-Live-Mitschnitt ist, wird usually only conveyed by the applause, which here acts and works almost as a transition from one song to the next - a snapshot that is also due to the playing of the fellow musicians Tobias Friedli (percussion), Christoph King-Utzinger (bass) and Daniel Huhnblust ( saxophone) and last but not least Daniel Woodtli (trumpet, flugelhorn, melodica and shruti box) works as wonderfully as it does here.

Stylistically, it's free-wheeling contemporary jazz and vocal jazz that meets blues-tinged but understated gospel moments that add salt to the "Porgy & Bess" soup, a quirk that has always fueled the fascination with Gershwin's unrivaled jazz opera masterpiece – wonderful.


The classical art of ballads is Nicole Herzog's strength. She recorded "Intimacy" (Brambus 201370-2) with her pianist Stewy von Wattenwyl and some accompanists last summer in Bern, Switzerland.


A fabulously coherent album, despite, or perhaps because of, a distant coolness in her personality. So this music actually lives from an intimate atmosphere and is exciting at the same time. Even when the band is swinging like a feather or wallowing in fevered bossa nova. Nicole Herzog's voice has character, her intonation is balanced, her phrasing is classy - without copying the great ladies of jazz. Jazz singing with heart and soul and skilfully laid out between tradition and modernity.

(Jazz Panel 3/13)


After the storm has passed through, after the rain, with the sunbeams peaking though the breaking clouds, the day takes on an unblemished clarity. The horizon's sharp edge separates land from sky. Details of the landscape shine with fine detail. That after-the-rain clarity and focus is what elevates the artistic endeavor. Swiss pianist Stewy von Wattenwyl, with recordings like the trio outing Dienda (Brambus Reocrds, 2005), and the quartet set with saxophonist Eric Alexander, Live at Marians (Bemsha Music, 2009), has displayed his own keen-edged focus with distinctive covers of the American Songbook, jazz standards and a handful of his own distinctive tunes. 

On After the Rain von Wattenwyl mixes up quartet and trio workouts, with saxophonist Eric Alexander sitting in on half the numbers. 

Von Wattenrwyl's approach to jazz is traditional, straight ahead and gorgeous, always. The pianist's original, "It Ain't That Bad" opens the disc with a strutting rhythm, then a flash of the pianist's right hand to introduce Eric Alexander. It's hard to believe this isn't an American jazz standard, from the days of saxophonist Hank Mobley. It could become one, with its stealthy groove, and Alexander's inspired blowing. The quartet embraces the pop singer Michael Jackson hit, "She's Out of My Life," opening with von Wattenwyl's supple keyboard touch swaying into Alexander's soulful, sad notes, coming straight ahead then slipping into some subtle forays. Von Wattenwyl moves into the trio mode with his original "Hellblau #2, with its insistent rhythm and superb trio interplay. 

On the set's title tune, from the pen of John Coltrane—from the saxophonist's Impressions (Impulse! Records, 1963) album—the trio explores the crystalline beauty of the tune with a timeless four and a half minute reverie, leading into the jaunty mood of Hoagy Carmichael's "Skylark." Alexander returns for the final three tunes, beginning with a straight forward take on the ever familiar "When You Wish Upon a Star," before laying down a hot version of saxophonist George Coleman's "Apache Dance."_cc781905-5cde-3194-bb3b- 136bad5cf58d_

The record closes with another von Wattenwyl original, the ruminative trio effort, "Otro Mundo," with Kathrin Bogli supplying a heart-meltingly gorgeous lead on cello, to close out this exceptional After the Rain.

"Live at Marians"

Swiss pianist Stewy von Wattenwyl blasts into this high energy set, Live at Marians, with a blistering one-two punch of Wes Montgomery's "Fried Pies" and John Coltrane's "Moments Notice." The leader pounds the keys in a McCoy Tyner mode, and saxophonist Eric Alexander sounds raw and just barely tamed. This is not a sound that can be called laidback; this is a gale force wind gusting into town.


(...)The live setting definitely agrees with the Swiss keyboardist. The music on Live at Marians crackles with spontaneity, and nobody is being careful. These guys came to kick down the doors and play some jazz.


The band slows the pace on the Kahn/Van Heusen standard “All the Way,” with von Wattenwyl displaying a tender touch behind Alexander's soulful horn. Tom Harrel's "Terrestris" cranks things back to a mid-tempo on the tightest performance of the night. The pianist opens Bill Evans' “Very Early” with a beautifully inward intro, before the saxophone comes in with a ringing tone.


The power's back on in a down tempo way with Sonny Rollins' “Sonnymoon for Two.” Alexander digs deep, like Rollins, and the entire band seems particularly inspired and interactive on this down and dirty take, as Von Wattenwyl crafts a superb solo that takes flight in front of a rubbery rhythm.


Stanley Turrentine's “Stan's Shuffle” features Wattenwyl and the band at their free-swinging best, wrapping things up with a tune that must have had the audience up out of their chairs and dancing.

"I Got A Right To Sing The Blues"
Jack Bowers, CADENCE Magazine USA

In music as in sports, the best players always make whatever they do seem deceptively easy.

Guitarist Nick Perrin and pianist Stewy von Wattenwyl are so loose and casual that one might think they were jamming in a basement or garage instead of cutting an album in a recording studio, depending on the years of study, discipline and hard work it took to get them to that point.

The duo format requires unremitting focus and the ability to listen carefully and respond immediately to whatever ideas one's partner is laying down.

Perrin and von Wattenwyl have that down to a science. (…)This is a splendid session by a couple of world-class musicians...


This album is worth hearing for its exceptional artistry and the perceptive interplay between von Wattenwyl and Perrin.

Concerto (A) No. 2 2005

Wattenwyl's virtue is to present the standards played here as if they were his own compositions. They are idiosyncratic, original, and often serve as a starting point for intoxicating improvisations or as a framework for thoughtful arrangements.


“My Favorite Things, which has become a milestone in Brubeck's hands, has now found its second master in pianist Wattenwyl. What a reinterpretation, terrific!


Even an old blockbuster like Shearing's “Lullaby Of Birdland” gets a new coat. I think Wattenwyl has his strongest moments when he improvises over the main melody of a song. Many a topic is presented in this way in a clever, imaginative and almost mischievous manner. Wattenwyl understands perfectly how to transfer his rich fund of diverse styles into his jazz language.


Dienda, that's 70 minutes of jazz trio fare at its finest. With Daniel Schläppi or optionally Reggic Johnson on bass and Tobias Friedli on drums. KaDe, Concerto No.2, Austria

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