Heinrich von Kalnein (HvK) in conversation with John Heitzmann (JH):
JH: Heinrich, “Möbius Strip”, a 2-CD box, is quite a treat for your upcoming 60th birthday on July 4. How did it come about?
HvK: „Möbius Strip“ actually connects two very distinctive productions, which evolved almost simultaneously over a longer period of time. It all started with solo improvisations I did in the studio of German pianist Joachim Kühn in Ibiza, Spain. Joachim at one point uttered the idea of recording free improvisations and let the rhythm section play on top of it afterwards. Usually this is done just the other way around and I thought that this is a brilliant idea and absolutely worth a try. Out of more than two hours of music I distilled about 40’. It took me quite a while though finding the right musicians, who were not only able to create a killer groove, but at the same time being fluent in free form improv. Then my wonderful Argentinian wife came up with the right ideas at the right moment. The Austrian drummer Lukas König is one of the European shooting stars and I assume you can hear why. Austrian bassist Gina Schwarz is one of the highly respected players of this small, but very musical country. It was pure joy listening to and then also playing with these two fine musicians on a sunny November afternoon in a Viennese studio. Listening back you actually can’t tell, which tracks had been prerecorded by myself and which we did together. Big fun!
JH: And then there is a second CD, which seems to be very different: “Saxotonics – Music for Saxophone Quartet”. What’s this about?
HvK: Well, a few years ago I had the chance to start conducting a saxophone quartet on a regular base as part of my duties as a professor for saxophone at the renowned jazz institute at the University of Music KUG in Graz, Austria. Looking for inspiring material I started writing for this ensemble form, which was a lot of fun itself. But a saxophone quartet is as tricky as a classical string quartet. All four members need to be able to perform on the highest level and on top need to nurture a zen-like rapport among each other. Last year then I was very happy conducting an amazing group of young European players including myself on the baritone. I instinctively knew that this was a good moment to record, which we did in two sessions in January and June 2019. Additionally I invited my longtime friend and musical partner, Austrian keyboard virtuoso Uli Rennert to contribute with an original composition, which he did absolutely fabulously. Uli, also being active at the jazz school in Basel, Switzerland is one of the few keyboard players in the world, who really developed a distinctive and very individual sound on his instruments. Knowing him for more than 30 years and knowing that he started out on trombone I seem to understand why (laughs).
JH: I realized that in the second movement of his piece he reworked John Coltranes “Countdown”. With “Blue Train” Trane is present with even a second piece. Was this planned in any way?
HvK: (laughing) By no means! Listening to both CD’s I can identify quite a few players as personal influences. But it doesn’t bother me anymore. All these players for me are like chosen family members and I seem to have merged their different influences as a very personal amalgam. It all seems to be connected in an organic way similar actually like this production. The Moebius strip is quite an interesting phenomenon: if the strip is correctly twisted, split and divided, two rings are formed which interlink with each other. For me, this provides a very fitting image for my own musical biography which covers more than 30 years and during which my musical and pedagogical activities have been closely interlinked. And it is still gratifying and inspiring in every possible way.
JH: Will we be able to hear you live as well with one of these projects?
HvK: I do hope so! I have a few things in the pipeline which I hope will materialize. On top I am happy to tell you that my quartets will be published by Doblinger, a well-known Vienna-based publishing house later this year.
JH: That sounds like exciting news! Well, thumbs up and thank you very much for the conversation!
HvK: Thank you!