European jazz star Catherine Windfeld listens to Ukrainian classical music Olga Kovalevska for The Claquers

Anyone interested in contemporary European jazz is more likely to associate pianist and composer Kathrine Windfeld with a big band than with a sextet, the lineup of which she arrived in Ukraine for the first time. It is for big bands that she has created three of her albums (“Aircraft” 2015, “Latency” 2017, “Orca” 2020), each of which more and more clearly says: this young woman has a lot to say in music. The latest album, “Orca”, has brought her truly international acclaim.

Windfeld’s music has nothing to do with the traditional jazz big band repertoire we’re used to. It is completelyauteur-driven, based on the innovative jazz trends of recent decades, and contemporary, in tune with the style, Scandinavian jazz music. Despite the modern language, in the latter “Orca”, the composer also set out to be as straightforward as possible. She’s getting closer to the listener through the musical stories rather than retreating into conceptual self-immersion.

Kathrine began writing for big bands in her youth “almost by accident.” Between studies at the conservatories in Copenhagen (Denmark) and Malmö (Sweden), she decided to take a course in big band arrangements at the University of Copenhagen, and she found it fascinating.

A few years later, the composer released her first big band album, Aircraft, immediately nominating it for Danish Album of the Year. Windfeld received the New Danish Artist of the Year award. With her first big band, she quickly accepted an invitation from Copenhagen’s The Stand Jazz Club. Here she wrote the music and arranged works by jazz stars who toured Denmark and regular programs for big band accompaniment. This fantastic school of hands-on immersion in the big band organism had lasted two concert seasons.

It is worth noting that in Europe and Denmark in particular, performing big bands are pretty standard. So Kathrine had fertile ground for the development in this direction. So fruitful that the world’s leading jazz publications started talking about her project just after her performance at “Jazzahead!” in 2016 and the release of her second album “Latency” in 2017. In addition, Kathrine continued to build muscle by persistently writing new music and playing it with Europe’s leading big bands. Soon the world recognized her as a rising star in European jazz, winning the prestigious LetterOne “RISING STARS” Jazz Award 2019. (By the way, another special headliner of the current Leopolis Jazz Fest, trumpeter Itamar Borachov from Israel, received the same award a year later).

So, a pretty girl in a polka-dot dress appeared on the big stage of Leopolis Jazz Fest instead of the counterpoint queen, preoccupied with her ingenuity. The obscenely long legs emphasized the girl’s doll-like silhouette, and the deceptiveness of the stereotypes about women composers became clear.

Despite Kathrine Windfeld’s working with a much smaller lineup than usual – a sextet – her music soundedconvincing. (Besides, two big bands at one festival would, perhaps, be too much. So the organizers’ choice in favor of Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis is understandable.) Moreover, the smaller band has more improvisational mobility, more opportunities for self-expression “per musician”, and closer contact between the artists on stage. You must agree that these are advantages. It was nice to see Polish musicians Tomasz Dąbrowski and Marek Konarski, well-known to the people of Lviv, in the band. By the way, they are regular members of Kathrine Windfeld’s sextet.

Anyway, Kathrine Windfeld’s concert was one of the most profound ones in the colorful palette of this year’s lineup. The melodic, tuneful, and textural variety of her unrestrained, emotionally liberated compositions was a real gift for fans of contemporary jazz music in Ukraine.

The night after the performance, the pianist participated in a jam session at the local jazz venue LV Jazz Club together with her musicians. And the next day, she enjoyed listening to Chris Botti’s concert, sitting in the press seats (far from the stage, admittedly).

Catherine Windfeld at the Leopolis Jazz Festival. Photo by Olga Kovalevska

Perhaps the desire to listen to others, absorb different colors and sensations, and learn unexpected contexts regardless of style or loudness of name are also important details about the musician. That’s why the game of listening to music, specifically with Kathrine Windfeld, turned out to be surprisingly exciting both for the composer and for our media?magazine.

We met Kathrine in the cozy van of the festival organizers after her performance. She was in a hurry to listen to the British pop singer Seal, who was about to come on stage – so she expected a quick conversation. However, listening to the works of Ukrainian composers through headphones completely captivated Kathrine. The composition “Poholos” by Volodymyr Guba caused violent emotions. It was the main “trump card” on our list, so we are happy for the undeservedly forgotten in Ukraine author’s arising such delight in the acknowledged Danish composer, who is not yet familiar with Ukrainian music. Kathrine even asked us to send her the link to listen to this music again when she returned home, and she did.

 

Valentyn Sylvestrov. Piano Concertino: Part III. Serenade

I think it’s a very beautiful piece of music. I love when the composer utilizes the different registers. So what I heard immediately was the deep register of the piano. And that register of the piano is maybe not the most common one but has such a beautiful sound – the sustained dark sound of the piano, it’s so calm and full of feelings. I love that the piece starts over with that and then there is more light melody in the light register. And it’s very easy to sing, it’s not atonal or alike, it’s very melodic tune. So I hear a lot of folklore in the melody and also (sings) it is very ballad. I mean it’s super catchy, maybe not the best word. But it really appeals to your attention immediately. I like the modulations as well but I also think the harmonics are not too complicated, it goes little from minor to major and stuff like that. But I think it’s very beautiful and calm piece of music.

 

Volodymyr Huba. Poholos

 

Wow, this is a super impressive piece of music and really, really love it. This really speaks to me. I love this dissonant universe. I heard a lot of structure in it and I really enjoyed it. It’s easy to follow because it’s so smartly written so that you can follow the energy up and down. I mean as a composer I spend a lot of time researching intervals and how they sound together and how very small intervals affect you when you listen. And this piece of music has a lots of small seconds and lots of dissonant things.

Catherine Windfeld listens to music by Ukrainian composers. Photo: Olga Kovalevskaya

Also I think that I heard a lot of time or in a lot of the passes of this music that the left hand seems to be separated from the right one. So the left hand has a specific figure maybe in another key. As well as a right one. I felt physically how it might have felt to play this super virtuoso piece of music. I played some Bela Bartok and Alberto Ginastera pieces myself. And in this pieces I sometimes only played the black keys in my left hand and the white keys in my right hand, so they had separate keys!.. I think, it’s a great piece of music. I have to listen to it again when I come home.

 

Ihor Scherbakov. Piano concert No. 1, part 2

This is also a super interesting piece of music. It has a lot of repetitive figures. In the beginning, it’s like the same note, which is pulsating a lot of time. I think it awakes a lot of aggression and attention. When you hear some (sings) repetitive sounds like a kind of an alarm. This is a piece of music with a lot of temperament in it. It’s not peaceful and relaxed but passionate. The flutes and the trumpets are little bit fanfare like. Also there are some dynamic contrasts and some hits, all of sudden you hear a big brass – oom! – so the composer has really thought of the dynamic contrasts. And also there are a lot of rhythmic patterns going on so it keeps interest. In the beginning, you have not too many different notes but some super captivating rhythms, which keeps your interest in hearing what’s next.

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