Fabia Mantwill, EM.PERIENCE Review
by Nolan DeBuke
Fabia Mantwill is a saxophonist, composer, and vocalist that has become an important part of the German Jazz Scene – with a significant international focus. On May 21, 2021, she released her debut album entitled EM.PERIENCE, which features the 23-piece Fabia Mantwill Orchestra and guest soloists Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ben Wendel and Nils Landgren. Mantwill has been writing for the Metropole Orkest (NL) feat. Becca Stevens and has worked with Vince Mendoza. Her orchestra work Sasa ndio Sasa was premiered at the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg with the Junge Norddeutsche Philharmonie and the Large Ensemble Hamburg, where Mantwill was featured as a composer, conductor, and soloist. She was selected for the International Workshop for Jazz and Creative Music at Banff Centre Canada, curated by Vijay Iyer and Tyshawn Sorey. She will also receive the Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead Residency by the John F. Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts. Mantwill holds a Master of Music (by the HfMT Hamburg) and a Bachelor of Arts (by the Jazz Institute Berlin & Sibelius Akademie Helsinki), played concerts at the Kennedy Center (Washington D.C.) and the Apollo Theater (New York City) and toured in China, India, Brazil, West Africa, Canada, USA, and Europe. Since the beginning of 2019, she curates her own interdisciplinary concert series called ART.IST, where she presents collaborations of international artists and musicians.
Our first experience with the young composer’s writing is the first song, “Ophelia.” The 23-piece orchestra creates a haunting soundscape for Mantwill’s soft singing to dance upon. Her orchestration is balanced, and the various hues and pastels developed within the orchestra are stunning. The through-composed form is rich in string colors that build to the midway point where a groove is established. There is a sense of majesty and building as each section has unique orchestration colors. Mantwill’s compositional style and vision is undoubtedly something special, and even after only hearing the first selection, it is obvious the praise and hype around this artist are well deserved.
“Trio.logy” finds Mantwill on saxophone and is a rhythmically diverse selection that is a real gem. Mantwill leads a stirring performance, capturing the music’s energy and character quite well from the opening motif that is developed throughout the composition. The theme has the right seductive atmosphere, and the various counterpoints and orchestrations work’s to never let the interest drag, keeping the listener engaged and satisfied. Mantwill’s solo is a powerful and virtuosic statement and further displays her many talents.
EM.PERIENCE is a beautiful debut for the very talented Mantwill. The couplings of balanced writing for the 23-piece orchestra, excellent playing and interesting material make the recording ever more appealing. Mantwill’s power as a composer displays a control of section movements, symphonically proportioned orchestrations, and methodical development of themes and motifs. The ensemble performance easily holds its own against any working band out there, and for those reasons, EM.PERIENCE is a very appealing program.