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Music

Jazz meets classical in a creative new collaboration

Jazz combo The Nicolas Simion Group joined the Chamber String Orchestra Brasov from Romania for an unusual project. Titled "Classic meets Jazz," it showcases their self-written compositions and a unique, blended sound.

Jazz musician Nicolas Simion

Jazz musician Nicolas Simion says he likes to pursue daring musical ideas

During rehearsals for the March presentation of their CD "Classic meets Jazz," the musicians were already chatting in three languages: Romanian, German and English. And the styles they set out to fuse also represent two very different musical languages for reaching audiences.

"The great thing about this mix of new classical music and jazz is that people try to meet somewhere in the middle and find enough room for improvisation," said jazz musician Nicolas Simion, who organized the project.

"The goal is to be able to bring all of the elements together organically," he added.

Masterful realization

Simion hails from Russia and has lived in Cologne, Germany since 1997. He studied at a music academy in Bucharest, founding his first band in Romania in the early 1980s. The formation quickly became the country's most successful.

The fruition of the "Classic meets Jazz" project has been decades in the works. Nicolas Simion recalls coming up with the idea to create a dialogue between a jazz combo and a symphony orchestra over 25 years ago.

Simion has brought the concept off masterfully, including in his own composition for the project, "Prayer."

"This piece is dedicated to my mother, who is very religious," he explained. "I didn't incorporate any religious songs directly but rather the mood - the music conveys this peace, faith and hope."

Conductor and composer Sabin Pautza

Conductor and composer Sabin Pautza directed at the "Classic meets Jazz" concert

The drawing board

Putting the program together was just as exciting for the other members of the Nicolas Simion Group, Antonis Anissegos, Chris Dahlgren, Alan Jones, Florian Stadler and Norbert Scholly.

"The unique thing about it was that we all had the chance for the first time to write our own compositions for an orchestra," explained jazz guitarist Norbert Scholly. His composition "Piece for Strings and Jazz Ensemble" aims to capture a mood of complete relaxation.

Romanian musicians and composers Sabin Pautza, Dan Dediu and Cristian Marina also wrote their own pieces oriented at various points in the landscape between jazz and new classical music. Sabin Pautza's contribution titled "Jocuri IX (Ecchos)" even incorporates elements of Romanian folk melodies.

Pautza also conducted at the March 22 presentation of the collaboration's CD in Bonn, Germany, adding to the composer's long list of appearances including in world-famous venues like New York's Carnegie Hall.

"Jazz means you have to be so creative and spontaneous - the musicians themselves are responsible for getting everything across that's not in the score," Pauza noted.

Jazz musician Nicolas Simion in concert in Bonn

The concert took place in Bonn's Federal Art and Exhibition Hall

Searching for a new language

Bringing the spontaneity of jazz together with the more collected approach of classical was a particular challenge for the musicians.

"On the one hand, the idea of our combo meeting a symphony orchestra in the middle is more of an idealization than anything," said Greek jazz pianist Antonis Anissegos, who now lives in Berlin. Anissegos intentionally avoided using well-known styles in the piece he composed.

"I didn't go explicitly in a jazz or a classical direction," he explained. "Instead, I tried to come up with my own language and invite both ensembles into my world."

In the work "Nau" ("Nine" in Esperanto), Antonis Anissegos steps into a world in which all instruments are equal, and the notes and rhythms are interpretations of a number scheme by theorist Marco Rodin.

Refreshingly different and full of interesting contrasts and tension, "Classic meets Jazz" is a great listening experience for jazz lovers, classical lovers and everyone in between.

Author: Alexandra Scherle (gsw)
Editor: Rick Fulker

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