Braiding Harmony with Style: Eva Kess’s New CD Inter-Musical Love Letter

There’s something light, fizzy even, about the tones and colors of Eva Kess’s music. The double bassist who was born in Berlin has released a new CD titled Inter-Musical Love Letter. Within it are ten original compositions that traverse all the corners of the universe, driven by an engaging and engaged 14-piece ensemble. All of the voices meld and depart, come together and disperse, like a living, breathing organism.

“Peculiar Times” starts with a lone saxophone, unadorned and exposed. Its opening line stops and then all join in this fun-tempo noodling session. Spoken voice (in French) offers up its own stanzas, and the tune continues, again lead by sax with trombone figuring significantly as well as horn…heck, all voices again. You’d think for 14 instruments, the air would get a little crowded. The song ends with a fall. This feels just right here. “Magic Mama” is more sedate, alto flute doing marvelous things and horns winding around that; but the song isn’t any less impactful than the others, only bringing about a new way of listening out for melody. More spoken word, this time sweetly in round tones and accompanied deliciously by vibraphone.Then the conversation gets disjointed, stop and go, atonal, deceptive. Something very different here. Kress’s creativity is on full display.

Personnel:

Mirjam Hässig – Voice

Domenic Landolf – Tenor Saxophone & Alto Flute
Marco Karrer – Soprano & Altosaxophone
Daniel Woodtli – Trumpet & Fluegelhorn
Felix Grandjean – Trumpet & Fluegelhorn
Julia Rüffert – Trombone

Vincent Brunel – Violin I
Susanna Andres – Violin II
Tatiana Zubova – Viola
Alejandro Olóriz Soria – Violoncello

Jonathan Salvi – Vibraphone
Cyprien Rochat – Guitar & Rap
Loïc Baillod – Double Bass
Felix Wolf – Drums

Having begun your studies in ballet and classical piano, do you recall why the double bass captured your fancy; was there a particular song that made you realize you wanted to play it?

One day after dance class I missed the bus and followed some beautiful music that I heard from afar. It was the Pro Basso Quartet playing Eastern European music in the streets of the old town of Bern, Switzerland. This was the moment when I fell in love with the double bass.

When did you move to NYC and how has the music experience there been different from in Europe?

Actually, I am going to move to New York this year and am looking forward to it very much! My first time in the city was in 2010 with the Friedl Wald scholarship that I got over the Music Academy of Basel. It felt like the city that never sleeps was opening up all doors for me. There’s so much jazz going on…it is like a permanent jazz festival. I had a wonderful time, made many friends and came back whenever I could.

What inspires you when you begin to compose: a melody, a mood or feeling, the harmonies, or something else? Do you write first for bass or hear the bass parts first?

In truth all is possible: I can start with a melody, a harmony, a rhythm – actually I consider the bassline to be a melody as well – usually, I start with a feeling.

When creating music I let my subconscious serve and surprise me, singing melodies and improvising on my instruments. Usually it is a feeling, a mood, sometimes an internal picture, movie or a color that sets the tone.

At some point in the creative process, I’m using compositional techniques to bring it all together. Usually, I’m working on a piece or program until it feels “round.”

What are the challenges of learning this instrument? What are the rewards?

Basically, everything concerning the double bass is a challenge. After a while it becomes normal and you have successfully extended your comfort zone.

How does this new CD feel different than your previous ones?

This is a powerful CD as the music was being written and later on rehearsed during a historical moment. For me personally, the pandemic was in truth a blessing in disguise, allowing me to focus on writing music. There was a lot of calm, nothing to be missed, nowhere to go except the river or forest.

My idea was to create a counterpoint to the bizarre oddities we all went through and to bring more love to the world. By creating something beautiful and uplifting, I was hoping to make people reflect, to inspire them, and to contribute to more joy and happiness.

What is it like to play in a larger ensemble, and which is your preference?

In truth, I simply love music and all sorts of setups, from solo bass to symphony orchestra.

A large ensemble is a super nice body of sound for a composer and also as a bass player, it’s fun to play in it.

What is your favorite track on the new CD? The most challenging?

I like all of them in their own way. Each track emanates a different atmosphere. If I am feeling like listening to lots of strings I’d go for “Inbetween Worlds” and for horns, I’d listen to “Waves.”

All of the tunes contain specific challenges and for each musician, they lie in a different tune or part of the tune.

What is your favorite part of the process in producing an album?

My favorite stages are the creative ones. I truly adore the compositional process and I enjoy the rehearsals with the musicians when we are awakening the little black dots to life.

Who is this “Inter-Musical Love Letter” to, and why the name?

It is a love letter containing music that has been written with the intention to build bridges and to spread the message of love. Love is the strongest unifying force in the universe and music is a magical, all-senses involving, uplifting experience. My “Inter-Musical Love Letter” is for everyone who is open to the idea of love.

What would you say to musicians just starting out on bass? How do you feel rewarded and gratified to play it?

Don’t force anything. Be patient and enjoy.

As a musician, you can meet very interesting people all over the world. Music is a universal language.

For more information, visit https://evakess.com.

Photos courtesy of and with permission of the artist.

© 2023 Debbie Burke

Debbie Burke jazz author

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