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A subtle-sounding and brilliant performer, drummer Christian Lillinger is a bandleader with a finely worked sense of composition. His band, Grund (ground), includes high-class colleagues pianist Achim Kaufmann, vibraphonist Christopher Dell, and bassist Robert Landfermann. Their first PIROUET CD is also named Grund, and it captivates with its very personal poesy.
Christian Lillinger is a whirlwind. When he sits behind the drums, this tall, thin musician with the rockabilly coif is in seemingly constant motion, playing with incredible precision. The music is refined ferocity; at one moment, specifically choreographed explosions, at the next, such gracefully delicate and gradual tones, that it approaches silence. On this Pirouet CD, Lillinger presents his band Grund playing his own compositions. The album is also called Grund, and it offers a tumult of surprises.
Two basses, two chordal instruments, two horns and drums—an unusual combination that centers on doubling. And that relates to the band’s name. In an interview with Maxi Sickert for the prestigious DIE ZEIT newspaper, Christian Lillinger says, “My Grund (ground) is the soil foundation out of which I grow. The two basses are the platform. And it’s also my music, my own personal ground, the things that concern me.” Alongside Lillinger in the band: Pierre Borel, alto saxophone, Tobias Delius, tenor saxophone, Achim Kaufmann, piano, Christopher Dell, vibraphone, Jonas Westergaard, bass, and Robert Landfermann, bass. These are outstanding representatives of the younger jazz scene; they possess a commanding virtuosity, leaping over the most difficult rhythmic and harmonic hurdles with seeming ease. Only with such gifted musicians is it at all possible to realize Lillinger’s compositions.
Christian Lillinger says that, “this group is more about the musicians than it is about the instrumentation. Some of my favorite musicians are in the band. I have close connections to these players through years of playing together. We trust each other, and the band functions like a single organism.” Christian uses the double instrumentation so that “the platforms can be moved back and forth. The music moves on different levels at the same time.” Lillinger emphasizes that such labels as “free jazz” that are now and then used in connection with him have nothing to do with this music. “Along with jazz, I am influenced by new music; I love to concoct and interconnect structures.” Apropos to this, Christian names Pierre Boulez, the great French composer, as an important inspiration. Boulez was born in 1925, and since the 1950’s has been one of the foremost exponents of the New Music. Lillinger emphasizes, “What seems free in my music is carefully worked out structurally, and is specifically geared to the musicians. All the same, every musician has a lot of room to play a part in either braking up or paying service to the form.”