Johanna Klein, Cosmos Review
by Ferell Aubre
Johanna Klein is a saxophonist and composer from Rüsselsheim, Germany. From an early age, she was exposed to music through her family and found her way to Jazz via Big Band playing. Klein started in the local IKS Big Band, subsequently played in the State Big Band of Hessian, and later studied at Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln. She has toured throughout Europe, South Africa, and in the U.S. Today, she lives in Cologne, where she leads her quartet – Johanna Klein Quartet, which won the jazz@undesigned award 2019. Klein is now releasing her debut album titled Cosmos, with the players being Klein (saxophone), Nicolai Amrehn (bass), Leo Engels (guitar), and Jan Philipp (drums).
“Flux” is the opening selection and establishes the album’s mood and the quartet’s focus on interactions. Engels guitar supports Klein’s flowing melody as the song develops and creates an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue. Amrehn and Philipp enter as the soundscape continues to grow and develop. Amrehn switches between arco and pizzicato to further add texture and depth. Klein’s saxophone solo is building, and she interacts with the other three players to form an arcing solo statement of care and beauty.
The quartet reveals a softer side with” C. Noctem,” with declarations of classical and European jazz streaming together. Throughout, the strength of the pulse carries the song as Klein’s saxophone leads the way. The bass and drum kit acts as interactive support and the guitar adds colors. The quietude of melody is brought out as they create juxtaposition of movement and space to significant effect. Klein says, “No matter which wavelengths we use to listen to the interstellar radio traffic, no matter in which direction we point our radio telescopes: so far we hear nothing but noise. So instead, we send out music ourselves, expressing how we perceive our world, as well as the feelings we carry within us. ”
Cosmos is a strong first outing for the Johanna Klein Quartet; they seamlessly move between modern jazz, European jazz, and free improvisation. The music also incorporates elements of pop and rock as well to give varied musical experience. Through the careful balancing of the compositions of Klein with a healthy amount of improvisational freedom, the quartet has developed its sound over many years, a specific and focused sound that jazz fans will find relatable and sometimes unpredictable.