It’s not easy for a young German drummer to get noticed on the American jazz scene. That Mareike Wiening’s debut album Metropolis Paradise was so well-received in 2019 confirms that jazz is a meritocracy. The only thing it had going for it was high quality. Her new recording, Future Memories, is even stronger.
Wiening is from Nuremberg but came west in 2012 to do graduate work at New York University. Press notes tell us that Future Memories “is based on … the ambition to unite both worlds” in Wiening’s experience: Europe and the United States. European jazz often prioritizes the ensemble over the individual. Wiening’s quintet here includes three Americans (tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, pianist Glenn Zaleski, and guitarist Alex Goodman) and another German (bassist Johannes Felscher). By bringing in three creative Americans to elaborate on her European concepts of ensemble form, Wiening has brokered a truly transatlantic jazz venture.
Most current jazz musicians think they need to be composers, but a sense of obligation does not equate to writing skill. Wiening is the real deal. Every one of her tunes is a complete, sophisticated, elegant design. Her five players precisely execute her thematic recurrences, suggestive harmonies, interludes, varied unisons, and shifting patterns of counterpoint. When they get their chances to solo, they kill—concisely. Goodman and Zaleski are among the most promising talents of their jazz generation. In fast company, Felscher and Wiening keep up.
But in this collaborative ensemble, Rich Perry, one of the unsung heroes of jazz, is first among equals. He gets the most solo space. Wiening describes his pensive, subtle solo on the title track as “floating above the chords.” Perry was floating above the chords before Wiening was born. He is still at it. In fact, he sounds born to it.