Jazz saxophonist Muriel Grossmann amazes with her new album. “Elevation” is charming, uncomplicated and inspired by the past.
It was not to be expected that Muriel Grossmann, born in Paris in 1971, would mature into an important jazz saxophonist. Because after she moved to Vienna with her family in 1976, went through various schools there and graduated from high school, Grossmann was originally supposed to become a veterinarian. In addition, she had studied the flute for 16 years. At 21, she switched to the saxophone, after finishing veterinary studies she dedicated herself to music. Years of trying followed: she played in various R&B, funk and jazz bands.
It was only when she moved to Barcelona in 2002 that a jazz career emerged. On the advice of pianist and composer Joachim Kühn, with whom she often played together, she went to the Balearic island of Ibiza in 2004. There she met Miko Weaver, Prince’s longtime guitarist, played with him and earned her living as a hotel musician. At the same time, Muriel Grossmann put together her own band with which she performed many gigs. From 2007 she produced her albums and became the label manager (“Dreamlandrecords”) and composer in personal union. She made her breakthrough at the age of 36.
Getting started comparatively late, like Muriel Grossmann, means no disadvantage, especially in jazz; a John Coltrane also gradually developed into an ace, gained world fame in his mid-thirties. Not the only parallel between the Methodist son from North Carolina and the Austrian teacher daughter.
Coltranes Impulse! Phase
Whoever hears Grossmann’s new album “Elevation” immediately notices that Grossmann is clearly oriented towards the Impulse! Phase Coltranes, so called after the label Impulse!. It is the period from 1961 when the African American tenor saxophonist found himself, but found freer forms from the classic combo BeBop of the 1950s. He was open to experiments, investigated the African origins of jazz, for example, and opened himself up to the spiritual.
Coltrane’s lightness in the early sixties appeared as a distant, not too acquiescent echo from Grossmann almost 60 years later, it inspired a signature work that condensed Coltrane’s music. At the same time, she is inspired by works by the composer Alice Coltrane, John Coltrane’s second wife, and the pianist McCoy Tyner. All of these influences come together on “Elevation”. In consultation with the artist, the Jazzman label has recombined pieces from two of her albums. So you can find “Peace for All” and “Your Pace” from “Natural Time” (2016) as well as “Elevation”, “Rising” and “Chant” from “Momentum” (2017).
This does not detract from the musical stringency, on the contrary: “Elevation” is even more concentrated than its original works. Grossmann’s quartet, alongside Radomir Milojkovic (guitar), Uros Stamenkovic (drums) and Gina Schwarz on bass, on full power here. The line-up has remained stable over the past decade — in the meantime has even grown into a quintet — and the total trust sounds good.
The five pieces are full of soul, warm jazz virtuosity and a look at history does not transfigure the past. Grossmann’s saxophone sound melts into a 45-minute dream in which she transitions gently and fruitfully at the same time. The artist not only prays Coltrane’s sound here, but always finds her own modern variations that are also colored by fusion and cool jazz.
Muriel Grossmann’s “Elevation” presents itself immune to show-offs and superficiality. Very charming, with a fine spring, it always leaves space where compression would be exaggerated. The phrasing sounds relaxed and concentrated at the same time. Luckily, Grossmann preferred the saxophone to veterinary medicine.