Klaus Gesing - reaLTime


Klaus Gesing soprano saxophone, bass clarinet, electronics

The name of Klaus Gesing‘s solo program is it’s key feature.

Although the compositions and improvisations he presents use a custom made electronic setup,  the main characteristic of live music remains unaltered:

Everything happens in reaLTime.

No pre-prepared soundtracks, no samples, no clips.
One can hear and follow the journey of a single, fragile melody turning into a complex wall of sound. Live.
Grooves that emerge and transform into spherical soundscapes; medieval- or folk melodies, baroque- and original compositions: they all appear, to stay for a while before they imperceptibly change into something else.

[…] a range of expression not heard since John Surman[…]
- Tyran Grillo / All About Jazz

Klaus Gesing: Realtime (2015)

By TYRAN GRILLO, Published: June 14, 2015 |

Klaus Gesing is best known stateside for his collaborations with Norma Winstone and Anouar Brahem, both documented to wide acclaim on ECM Records. The German multi-reedist's work with these honed ensembles polishes only a few of his diverse facets, which reflect his equal footing in classical and jazz training, as well as beyond. Whether in the soulfulness of Jan Garbarek or the genius of Herbie Hancock, the grandiosity of Gustav Mahler or the prodigy of Michael Jackson, he has taken inspiration from musical trendsetters across genres. Gesing's solo activities have produced a comparable node of fascination on reaLTime, wherein one may navigate the inner mazes of his craft, up close and personal. On this album, he favors the bass clarinet, which often serves as the sole means of melodic production throughout. I asked Gesing to expand on his relationship with this notorious instrument.

"After finishing my conservatory studies in The Hague/Netherlands, I focused for some years on soprano sax to get a handle on its various difficulties. The soprano's range made it possible to find a somewhat more personal approach to sound and choice of notes than, say, tenor. Another reason was the strong influence of Dave Liebman, with whom I'd studied a bit and kept in contact. But after four years of nothing but soprano, I was missing the lower range. By chance (if chance you want to call it) a friend of mine asked me if I knew somebody that wanted to buy his bass clarinet, as he didn't really use it. I dropped by his house, played the lowest note first (it was a low c model, which I am still playing) and completely fell in love with it. So I bought it and started to practice. It was not an easy friendship at the beginning, as technically it is so different from the soprano. But I sat it out, continued to practice and, bit by bit, got more accustomed. At the same time the bass clarinet started to play a more important role in the trio with Norma Winstone and Glauco Venier. And when Anouar Brahem invited me to play in his new quartet to record The Astounding Eyes of Rita, we met for a rehearsal to decide on which instruments were going to play a role on the CD, which gave me the chance to dig deeper into the possibilities of the instrument."

It was around the same time that Gesing began experimenting with the compositional potential of live looping technologies. The already-versatile instrument thus became even more so at his fingertips, which on reaLTime elicit from it a range of expression not heard since John Surman. The comparison to Surman is an easy one, for the British reedman-composer's own solo albums are master classes in multi-tracking. In Gesing's darkly forested arrangement of the standard "The Thrill Is Gone," for instance, one can hear a likeminded crafting at work. And yet, where Surman's world of sound has explicitly defined oceans and continents, Gesing's would seem to make no distinction between land and water. True to concept, he plays everything in real time, using only the looping mechanisms at his immediate disposal. To the clarinet's gamut he adds the percussiveness of his own body (tongue, cheeks, breath) and the incidental rhythms of key depressions.

Gesing reveals his rigorous classical training in an original arrangement of the "Ave Maria" by 16th-century Flemish composer Jacobus Clemens non Papa. Here the low reed sounds like a church organ. Ashen and breathy, it sails beneath a flock of melodic murmurations. Still, his jazzier inclinations are not far behind, as growls soon turn the piece into a sacred blues. Ironically enough, his above-mentioned take on "The Thrill Is Gone" leans more toward classical constructions, balancing the timbral extremes of bass clarinet and soprano sax with comfort. To this combination, "Dorothy's Dance" adds a small flute for delightful contrast. The latter tune is but one among a large portion of originals, of which "Quarter 2 Five" and "Three 2 Four" are the most distinctly off-kilter. Gesing's vocal timekeeping further broadens his field of reference to Indian classical territory, spinning an elemental feeling of travel across huge swaths of development. "A lot of what I write uses odd meters," he admits. "'Quarter 2 Five' is simply based on the movement of five against four, while 'Three 2 Four' is based on a cell of 3 4/4 bars with 2 3/2 bars stacked on top. It somehow shifts the way you hear the music, and gives it a floating quality. Working with the loop instrument I have on hand makes it easy to use complex interpolations and orchestrate them in such a way that what comes out in the end, I hope, goes to your feet rather than to your brain."

Gesing's setup gives him the freedom to explore improvisational textures, which across three titular excursions take ad-hoc flight. Their subtitles—"Morning," "Noon," and "Night"—indicate a cycling of hours in a day, but also an awareness of the seasons and an equality of terrain. "Noon" is a tactile hunk of beauty the finds the bass clarinet accompanied only by its echoes, while the more urbanflavored pulse of "Night" develops a klezmer-like veneer toward the finish. The album closes in the wide, melodic embrace of "Snowflakes," which from a deeply grounded hub spreads interlocking motifs, crystal by crystal. Like the cover photograph, taken by the composer on a cold morning in Poland, it plays with notions of reality through exaggeration and delineation. It also emphasizes an intimacy of expression that looks as much inward as outward. "In the German language," says Gesing, "one can have a 'Zwiegespräch,' or conversation, with oneself, which means that you talk very honestly and openly to yourself. When important decisions are to be made or a crisis needs to be dealt with, you get into a 'Zwiegespräch' with yourself, trying to illuminate all aspects in order to come to the best possible conclusion. It is nice for me to know that a feeling of intimacy is being transported by the music."

Track Listing: Quarter 2 Five; Realtime I: Morning; Three 2 Four; Ave Maria; Dorothy’s Dance; Realtime II: Noon; The Thrill Is Gone; Realtime III: Night; Snowflakes.

Personnel: Klaus Gesing: bass clarinet, soprano saxophone, flute, miscellaneous percussion.

Record Label: Edition Tonspuren

Winstone | Gesing | Venier


Chamber Music


Chamber Music is music of collective ideas, able to spontaneously change direction, leave the form and come back to it, thus combining the greatest possible openness with wise conciseness. Music from three simultaneously bubbling sources, which finds its delicate guidelines in the verses of Norma Winstone that she very sensitively fit into the melodies of her co-musicians. Music that feels so completely “of a piece” that the border to entirely free improvisation is mostly imperceptible. […] - Andreas Felber



ECM 2028

Norma Winstone, England’s finest jazz vocalist, returns with a trio featuring German reedman Klaus Gesing and Italian pianist Glauco Venier (both of whom make their ECM debuts here) and a superb programme that takes in songs from Cole Porter to Peter Gabriel, a free calypso, a tribute to Coltrane, adaptations of Satie, folk songs, Pasolini and more and flows like an extended suite. Winstone’s lyrics reveal a real poetic sensibility, and both Gesing and Venier are fine jazz composers who put their considerable instrumental skills in the service of the songs. The result: a unique and special group language and one of the season’s outstanding recordings.


Stories yet to tell

ECM 2158

The return of the Grammy-nominated, Academie Du Jazz Prize-winning trio that gave us “Distances”, with another revelatory programme. As both singer and lyricist Norma has few contemporary peers: her words seem to float up from the music’s expressive core. And now she has a trio united by a profound feeling for song. The stark instrumentation – voice, piano, bass clarinet/soprano sax - seems never to limit their repertoire, but to encourage the players to explore widely, and to make musical use of the available space. Jazz ballads find their place alongside adaptations of folk songs, and ‘chamber’ pieces influenced by classical or contemporary composition. Textures, colours and rhythms may be drawn from scattered, surprising sources, and even the hypnotic lulling of an Armenian cradle song has a role to play as Norma cross-references Christina Rosetti nursery rhymes with Tigran Mansurian’s adaptation of Komitas!


Dance without answer

Norma Winstone: voice;
Klaus Gesing: bass clarinet and soprano saxophone;
Glauco Venier: piano
ECM 2333
CD 6025 374 3047 (5)
Release: 20 January 2014

The great British jazz singer Norma Winstone once again casts her net wide for source material for this third ECM album with Italian pianist Glauco Venier and German clarinetist / saxophonist Klaus Gesing. Alongside new pieces by Winstone/Gesing and by Venier, the trio covers tunes by singer-songwriters Nick Drake, Fred Neil and Tom Waits. They take a fresh approach to Madonna’s “Live To Tell”, and to Dave Grusin’s “It Might Be You”, as well as Ralph Towner’s “A Breath Away” (now with lyrics by Norma) and “Bein’ Green”, a children’s song elevated to jazz standard status by Sinatra, Stan Kenton, Ray Charles and many more. “As Winstone moves ever farther from the Great American Songbook,” All About Jazz observed, “it's certain that, with band mates as sympathetic as Gesing and Venier, there's precious little she can't do.”



ECM 2567

A creative journey into the world of cinema with new arrangements - by Klaus Gesing and Glauco Venier - of music by Nino Rota, Michel Legrand, William Walton, Bernard Herrmann, and Ennio Morricone for the movies of Scorsese, Godard, Wenders, Jewison, Zeffirelli, Olivier and more. Several of the arrangements incorporate new words by Norma Winstone who, in addition to being one of the great jazz singers, has long been a sensitive lyricist. For this project her acclaimed trio with Gesing and Venier is augmented by two special guests: Norwegian improvising percussionist Helge Andreas Norbakken and Italian classical cellist Mario Brunello. Norbakken is well-known to ECM listeners for his recordings with Jon Balke, Mathias Eick and Jon Hassell, while Brunello is highly regarded in classical and contemporary music circles for his interpretive versatility. ”Descansado – Music for Films” was recorded at ArteSuono Studio in Udine, Italy, in March 2017 and produced by Manfred Eicher.


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Songs without words, evocative and emotional

In this music a unique sound structure grows from within itself, layer by layer, and involves and enchants the listener.

It is broadly emotional and without mystique or pretension.

How else could these delicate dialogues develop such force and magic?

The inner logic of the trio’s interaction is compelling for it neither strives for attention nor takes the listener unawares.

It grows and spreads coherently like a natural organism.

Mellow, mild and sensitive, it has a flow that is both integral and detailed.

Melancholy and introspection are the starting point of their sound canvases, which they then rhythmically charge, enrich and intensify.

This is as spirited as it is sensitive.

It thus results in its light, yet compact power and its songlike quality.

© Ulrich Steinmetzger