The Berlin connections here are various. The rhythm section (pianist Ludwig Hornung, bassist Tom Berkmann, drummer Mathias Ruppnig) lives there. The leader, tenor saxophonist Tobias Meinhart, moved from Germany to New York 10 years ago but spends his summers in Berlin. Kurt Rosenwinkel, a major American guitarist who plays on five of the nine tracks, teaches at the Jazz Institute of Berlin, where Hornung, Berkmann, and Ruppnig were his students.
Berlin People gets off to an unpromising start. On “Mount Meru,” Hornung plays a block chord monotone for eight minutes. The melody, portrayed in tight unison by Meinhart and Rosenwinkel, is apparently meant to be mysterious. All you hear is Hornung’s tortuous piano. But things improve. Rosenwinkel lights up this album every time he touches it. His penetrating guitar sound is intensely electric, yet human and personal.