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JT Video Premiere: “Elegy for an Undiscovered Species” by Johannes Wallmann

The title track of the pianist/composer's latest album features a quintet with Ingrid Jensen, Dayna Stephens, Nick Moran, and Allison Miller—plus a string section

The Johannes Wallmann Quintet
The Johannes Wallmann Quintet (L to R): Allison Miller, Dayna Stephens, Wallmann, Ingrid Jensen, and Nick Moran

JazzTimes is honored to premiere a new video by pianist/composer Johannes Wallmann. “Elegy for an Undiscovered Species” is the title composition from his latest album (Wallmann’s ninth as a leader), which will be released by Shifting Paradigm Records on June 25.

Besides Wallmann on piano, the album features a large ensemble consisting of trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens, bassist Nick Moran, drummer Allison Miller, and a 14-piece string section (eight violins, three violas, and three cellos) conducted by Michael Dolan.
 
Of the instrumentation, Wallmann says, “I wanted to treat the strings not as background color but as another full-fledged player that expands the quintet into a sextet: sometimes they comp, but often they also play the melody or have featured soli. I tried to write to the strengths of the string ensemble, and if you listen to them closely you’ll hear lots of counterpoint just beneath the surface. Of course, they don’t improvise and all of their parts had to be composed, but that’s not all that different from most big-band compositions where the writer’s challenge is to create structures that leave room for freedom and spontaneous conversation among the improvisers and rhythm section.”
 
As the title suggests, environmental considerations loom large on both this piece and the album as a whole. “Among the massive human-caused extinction of animals and plants are millions of species that we have yet to even discover,” Wallmann says. “I’m not a politician, scientist or industrialist and can’t do much to change that trajectory, but since my main expression is through music, I sought to acknowledge one of those species by writing a piece of music written for it that tries to portray that unknown species as a wonderful and richly complex community worth treasuring.”
 
For more information on Johannes Wallmann, visit his website.