„Equilibrium“ is the ECM debut of a German/Canadian/Spanish trio, which through frequent touring has grown into a remarkably tight and stylistically unique unit in recent years. Fuelled by the tension created through the contrasting styles of pianist Benedikt Jahnel (whose approach is characterised by a heightened interest in rhythmic subdivisions) and drummer Owen Howard (who, in Jahnels words, “treats and perceives rhythmic phrases as melodic lines without fixed micro units”), and with bass player Antonio Miguel often the musical mediator, the group’s sound draws subtly from classical influences as well as contemporary concepts of groove.
Leader Benny Jahnel, also known as a member of Cyminology, has sharpened his profile playing with the Metropol Orchestra, Phil Woods, Johannes Enders, Charlie Mariano, Wolfgang Muthspiel, Dave Liebman and John Abercrombie. Jahnel and Drummer Owen Howard first met when Howard taught as a guest professor at Berlin’s Universität der Künste. Later, when Jahnel spent two years in New York in 2005/2006, his artistic relationship with Brooklyn based Howard intensified. Also in New York Antonio Miguel, who at the time finished his studies with John Patitucci, completed the group.
Produced by Manfred Eicher at Radio Televisione Svizzera in Lugano the seven tracks on “Equilibrium”, all Jahnel originals/compositions, strike a unique and delicate balance between composed parts and improvisation or group improvisation. The album’s title refers to certain analogies, Jahnel, who in his “second life” works as a researcher in mathematics at Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, found in his artistic and in his scientific work, analogies related to questions of balance. Jahnel, though generally reluctant to draw direct comparisons between both fields, hints at “those microscopic phenomena, appearing randomly or better: intuitively between the musicians in a group – those many little things that make a band unique.“ On his own playing on „Equilibrium“ Jahnel says: “I love to perceive a so-called ‘solo’ also as a group effort. The piano shouldn’t play its lines over an accompaniment in a traditional jazz fashion. Instead I prefer improvised sections to be developed by the whole group together – as in the opening track ‘Gently Understood’. It is nice when a solo stretches over two or more sections and when it remains unclear to the listener, whether it is really a solo.”
While naturally certain parts on “Equilibrium” build up on achievements from their first album, 2008s “Modular Concepts” on Material Records (in fact in the track “Moorland Hill Land” an ostinato phrase played by Jahnel is consciously developed from a piece on “Modular Concepts”), the new tracks profit from time the trio spent on the road, and also from the recording circumstances: “Everything was perfect”, says Jahnel, “the instruments, the room. Also very important to me was Manfred Eicher’s inner ear and his vision of sound.” The trio had entered the studio with a number of compositions that were quite thoroughly structured, but Jahnel also brought along “a few small sketchy pieces with more emphasis on sound and improvisation, because I knew that the room in Lugano would exert a certain influence too and I wanted to let that happen. I think these pieces were important to make the album a well-rounded affair.“