Nicole Johänntgen: Henry III



From Zurich, Switzerland comes a new album of saxophonist and composer Nicole Johänntgen. ‘Henry III’ is (obviously) the third album with her acoustic funk band from New Orleans featuring

Nicole Johänntgen – saxophone
Jon Ramm  – trombone
Steven Glenn – sousaphone
Paul Thibodeaux – drums

The album was recorded live at the Domicile Jazzclub in Pforzheim, Germany, on October 22, 2018. An old-fashioned analogue two-track recording machine was used for this production and Nicole made sure that the album is also available on vinyl. Overall, an interesting setup for this record and so I was curious when I started listening.

The first song on the album is called ‘Life’ and starts easy with drums and sousaphone setting the groove with sax and trombone warming up a little bit before playing the melody.  Played with great precision and fantastic timing. The first solo part of this song is a dialog between sax and trombone with fantastic support from drums and sousaphone followed by a conversation between sousaphone and drums. Excellent start and frenetic applause from the audience confirms the impression of amazing interplay combined with a cool groove.


The album continues with ‘Too Lose’, a slower and almost greasy tune based on a 3-3-2 bossa nova groove. The melody captivates us with its nice two-voice arrangement. The solo part ends with an old-fashioned almost dixie style duet between saxophone and trombone.

‘Discoland’ is the next tune on the album and it is based on a disco groove. Parts of the melody remind me of one disco song from the  1980′s, very funny. After solos of trombone and saxophone (with trombone support) comes a great drums solo.

‘Sweet and Honest’ is a nice ballad. Drums and sousaphone play very soft and keep trombone and sax in the lead. A great sousaphone solo raises from nowhere, feels like a wake-up call from the grave.

The album continues with ‘Biological’, a song in gospel-style harmonies. The first solo goes to Steven Glenn on sousaphone followed by another dialog between sax and trombone.

‘Zydeco’ is a tune based on the dance and folk music style with the same name from southern rural Louisiana. Nice background of sousaphone plus trombone or sax while the other instruments play solo. The pushing drums is the main characteristic from the Zydeco music. The song ends with a brillant drums solo

‘Dig Deep’ is a slow jazz waltz featuring the incredible Steven Glenn on sousaphone  and ends nicely with  Nicole and Jon Ramm singing the melody in two voices.

‘Fahrtwind’ is the next song. It has a steady moving groove. Very impressive is the precise playing of the whole band. The solo is again the typical dialog between sax and trombone.

The album ends with a lullaby. ‘Guetnachtlied’ is just a sweet melody presented by Jon Ramm on trombone , the perfect last dance of a live show.

This whole album impresses with the great precision, dynamics and the superb timing of all musicians. You feel that these musicians spend quite some time together and play this music right from the heart.

Nicole Johänntgen is currently on tour in Germany, Austria and Switzerland to present the new album. I had the chance to see her in Bern, it was a night to remember, the music was played without amplification and Nicole Johänntgen invited a special guest (as she does in every concert during this tour). The surprise came with Victor Hege, a second excellent sousaphone player and so I had the pleasure to listen to two incredible sousaphones pushing each other to the limit.

Please check Nicole Johänntgen’s website for more information on tour dates and other projects:

And finally the complete album as playlist on Spotify:


Claudio Scolari Project: Cosmology



Drummer and composer Claudio Scolari and his experimental jazz project have released a new album called ‘Cosmology’. It is the second album that has been recorded live and it features his long-time partner Daniele Cavalca on synthesizers and piano, his son Simone Scolari on trumpet and Michele Cavalca on bass.

The 13 tracks on the album circle around an imaginary journey into time and space.  The compositions are all originals by Claudio Scolari & Daniele Cavalca (except ‘Collision’ which is by Simone Scolari & Daniele Cavalca).

The album start with ‘Dark Matter’, a song that builds on a steady drums groove. The trumpet defines the mode of the song supported by changing patterns from piano and synthesizer. This is the trademark of this band, the combination of the natural sounds from trumpet and drums plus the electric and synthetic sounds by bass, piano and synthesizer.

‘Magnitude’ builds on an intensive synthesizer pattern, drums come and go, the trumpet and the piano are in a constant dialogue.

‘Hyper Galaxy’ changes to a much more spacious sound impression, fulfilling our expectations of unlimited time and space. The lonely (Miles Davis inspired) trumpet intensifies this impression.

‘Aurora’ is much more tangible. Based on a synthesizer riff this song develops into some kind of happiness. Definitely my favorite song on the album. The band produced a nice video to demonstrate the recording process:

‘Zenith’ is the next song on the album and is more densely packed with drums, bass and piano following a pushing groove.

‘Spectrum’ develops like ‘Dark Matter’ over a steady groove. Noticeable here is Michele Cavalca on bass who is much more present and plays an active role in the dialogue between the musicians.

The title song ‘Cosmology’ comes next. This short tune features Daniele Cavalca on a slightly odd acoustic piano.

‘Blue Shift’ is a slow and contemplative song. Nice echo effects on the trumpet.  The end of this song is much more intense and is inspired by the pushing drums of Claudio Scolari.

‘Aphelion’ comes packed with bass and drums setting the pace. Piano and trumpet follow initially before the mode changes and becomes more open which allows all four musicians to start a conversation.

‘Lunation’ brings back peace and quietness. The song stays very open with drums, bass and trumpet and some harsh kicks from the piano.

‘Black Hole’ starts with a clear trumpet and reminds me on scenes from the morning of judgement day. Heavy bass groove by a synthesizer bass and a steady intensification characterize this song.

‘Collision’ sounds like dance. Great drums and percussion work.

The album ends with ‘Nebula’ a song which begins in an undefined mode before the piano plays some broken pop ballad harmonies. The song and the album end with the trumpet vanishing into infinity.

‘Cosmology’ is another great album by Claudio Scolari and his project. The band has found its style and coherence. The arrangements are full of different sounds and ideas and allow to improvise and to get into dialogue with each other.

More information on Claudio Scolari is available on his updated website:

And finally the album as playlist on Spotify: