Benjamin Lackner Trio
BENJAMIN LACKNER piano
JERÔME REGARD bass
MATTHIEU CHAZARENC drums
Benjamin Lackner Quartet
BENJAMIN LACKNER piano
MATHIAS EICK trumpet
JERÔME REGARD bass
MANU KATCHÉ drums
“Benny Lackner has a distinctive compositional voice that sounds lucid and fresh. I´m honored that I´ve been part of his musical journey.”
Why is music still being created and released on albums? Why is it still possible to express something that has never been said before, using the same straightforward, centuries old set of notes? Because each of these melodies, concepts or constellations would be absolutely new? Or maybe it’s because a select few musical personalities with magical foresight strike the perfect note that, at the time of its release, is in sync with a general societal yearning and expresses a condition of feelings or hope that words could never adequately capture . One such musician is the tone philosopher, Benjamin Lackner, currently living in Berlin. With “Last Decade”, his infinitely touching portrait of the present moment, he created a counterpoint to our current obsession with speed that floods us with more and more information in ever shorter intervals. Was that his intention? Hardly likely. Is it a coincidence? Even much less so. Besides giving meaning to every single note in his hierarchy of sounds, it is simply the way this pianist creates his music with a holistic profundity and seriousness, as well as an unshakable self-confidence.
Memories come to life when one hears Lackner playing with the Norwegian trumpeter Mathias Eick and the two French musicians Jérôme Regard on bass and Manu Katché on drums. Memories of the sound from a time that may seem better in retrospect. This impression is deceptive, because even if Lackner cannot and doesn’t wish to free himself from his memories, his impulse to play this music is no different from that of the protagonists from the past. ”Last Decade” is a window into the present, in which the reminiscences of memory can easily be heard and felt. Without copying anyone, Lackner and the members of his band connect with an aesthetic that many believe to be lost, and they confidently transport their concept of an imaginary past into the future. What sometimes sounds like an homage is ultimately a self-confident statement of where we stand today.
What distinguishes Benjamin Lackner from many of his role models is his renunciation of grand gestures. The poetic casualness with which he plays his fantastically beautiful melodies is reminiscent of the flight of a butterfly whose path draws the most enchanted ornaments in the air, but which remain ungraspable. With Lackner, the small rests in the large and the large in the small. The connecting element between both principles is the unpretentious moment in which it happens.
The recordings for “Last Decade” took place in September 2021. Times were complicated enough back then, but nobody would have guessed where we would arrive – societally, globally, and also individually – by the time of publication. With almost prophetic foresight, Benjamin Lackner created music over a year ago that soothes the afflictions and fears in our present like a healing ointment.
He opens doors and flips the dualism of musician and listener upside down, because he gives the impression that he is the one who is listening for our sake into the utterly unsolvable complexity of our worries and hopes. These songs were not created for the sake of music, but to be heard, no: to be felt and lived.
“During all this political and social turbulence I had to learn to stay in close touch with myself and to create from within myself the warmth that I give on this album,” states Benjamin Lackner. With “Last Decade” he not only cleared this hurdle with bravura, but he also gave the world a piece of music that, if every citizen of the world in East and West, whether poor or rich, old or young, listened to it once a day, would open the gates to a better future.
Speaking of Last Decade, many jazz musicians aspire to find a home at ECM, but few are called. Lackner, who has a handful of other albums on smaller labels, got the fateful call from Eicher a few years ago. After various delays, the recording sessions went down in September 2021 at Studios La Buissonne in Pernes-les-Fontaines, France. Eicher was very much in the house and in producer mode, and the resulting album benefits from the sonic radiance and sense of space and being in the moment — hallmark qualities for which ECM is renowned.From the opening probing piano-trumpet melody of “Where Do We Go From Here?” to the final suspended chord of the album-closer “My People,” Lackner shows a sensitive touch and an admirable restraint in his playing. He stretches out into flashes of serpentine fire at the right, ripe moments of a solo, as he does on the pensive 6/8 title track, “Last Decade.” He also lends Eick ample expressive space on the record; the pair seem to have a palpable empathetic connection, which one hopes will continue in the future.
JOE WOODARD, THE INDEPENDENT, 10-2022
The music unfolds naturally on each and every track. Made up of almost exclusively Lackner originals, there’s a genuine authenticity to the group’s sound that I feel will stand the test of time, hopefully encouraging more recording as a quartet in the future. Blessed with nine very strong tracks, I will just give special mention to one of them – the incredible “Hung Up On That Ghost”. Inspirational stuff indeed.
MIKE GATES, UK VIBE, 10-2022
The best thing about the album is the strength of the originals, most of these written by Lackner himself. Producer Manfred Eicher has drawn something special out of the pianist and all concerned on the record for a glistening, life affirming creation.
Cet album est du ECM tout craché. Une sonorité extraordinaire, captée aux studios La Buissonne à Pernes-les-Fontaines, près d’Avignon. Des compositions entre nostalgie et sérénité, douces et rêveuses, toutes du pianiste Benjamin Lackner sauf une, due au contrebassiste Jérôme Regard. Un piano quasi chopinesque, la trompette poétique de Mathias Eick, les percussions fluides de Manu Katché, la contrebasse inspirée de Jérôme. Un quartet superbe, une musique qui l’est tout autant, où tout semble réalisé sans aucun effort, où tout coule comme une rivière tranquille, où l’espace sonore se mue en paysage de nuages et de ciel bleu. C’est magnifique. On réécoute et on réécoute encore. Sans se lasser.
LE SOIR, 10-2022
Born in Berlin in 1976, the German-American pianist Benny Lackner moved to California when he was 13, and later on to New York. He lived between the two continents for decades until 2008, when he permanently returned to Berlin. Life on the road was something he had gotten accustomed to, but eventually, he just wanted to settle in and be at home in one place. “Drake”, the newest and sixth album from his trio stems from this longing to be grounded in one place.
The Benny Lackner Trio was founded in 2002 in New York and has played stages around almost the entire world. The long-established relationship relationship between Benny Lackner, drummer Matthieu Chazarenc and bassist Jerome Regard is marked by their telepathic-like understanding in their communication while playing, which has a mature proficiency about it. The three musicians met on a new level of relaxedness at their X-Jazz Festival 2016 performance. “It wasn’t about proving anything or showing off how insanely fast we can play. Instead it was about giving each melody the space which it requires. That evening’s performance was when we found our definitive sound as a band.”
The songs for the new album crystalized soon after. “Rise to the Occasion”, with its field recordings, drum loops and improvisation, is a highlight of “Drake” and showcases the trio’s characteristic electro-acoustic style. Simultaneously, the song represents the principle of focusing whole heartedly on the underlying essence. It is precisely this — working on a unique electro-acoustic sound in combination with a deep feeling for melodies and harmonies, which do not mold to common patterns and expectations— which sets this piano trio apart from all the other current Jazz Piano Trios. There are no swing elements and sprawling improvisations with the focus on the soloist, but rather musical themes that are embellished with prudence and emotiveness, which additionally to stimulating electronic effects also carry a calm pulse that is used as the basis for intensive sound explorations.
“The trio uses elements of the fusion sound from the seventies, but without the overbearing electronic sound one would expect from that era. There are no electronic guitars and the like, interfering with its sound, which is ultimately comprised of the keyboards and occasional electronic effects. Trance like passages creep into “Rise to the Occasion” among other tracks, supported by the steady yet ever growing intensity of the drums, while chirping along above the bass sound, intricately and delicately. Several of the songs are entirely composed this delicately, as the gentle piano sound dabs in the soaring composition “Decompression”, supported by the steady rhythm section, also heard in “It’s gonna Happen”. “Entwurzelt” lets the bassist play the lead with a distorted sound reminiscent of electric guitar and it is exactly these small nuances which enrich the overall endeavor and create an invigorating tension.
This is how music is created, the kind which pours warmly in the solar plexus and gives Jazz a completely modern tone. It is delicate and subtle, ginger and rigorous, and gives the tender space in which one’s own imagination is allowed to roam. In short, this is music for all occasions.”
(Wolfgang Giese, www.musikansich.de)
Also an achievement: to form an impressive piece of piano trio art from his now healed inner turmoil…
Reinhard Köchl, JAZZTHING 03/04-2019
…The result of this lengthy process is the album Drake, which he recorded with his trusted trio and which creates a hypnotic pull with its pulsating calm.
Thomas Kölsch, JAZZTHETIK 03/04-2019
An addictive record!
Rondo Magazine 3/26/2019
Lackner’s musical production, in any case, can be definitely considered within the most precious and exciting things we heard in the last few years. Drake is the new album from the Benny Lackner Trio, and since the first time I started listening to it there has been one special thing which amazed me more everything else, and this is the adoption of an extremely essential musical language, at times minimal, which is incredibly far from those mere demonstrations of technique and virtuosity that too often we hear in modern Jazz. In this sense, Lackner has found a extremely personal code for breaking the rules of standard Piano Trio music. The modernity and innovation of Lackner ‘s style, to some extent, are the characteristics that bring him closer to the giants of Jazz that were mentioned before.
Every now and then you can almost hear seagulls screeching as Lackner and Regard manipulate their instrument sound with subtle electronic effects. Above all, one regularly hears an unreal scraping and creaking, distorted mermaid songs or a dull, dubby roar from the depths of the ship’s hull, especially from the bass on the recording.
Rondo Magazine 03/2019