Certain jazz labels such as Greenleaf Music, Pyroclastic, and Outside in Music are just a few that one can count on for creative jazz presentations today. Greenleaf, the subject at hand, is an independent music company owned, operated and curated by trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas. The label is a refuge for artists who want to create their own music without boundaries and outside producer guidance. This proves to be a fertile environment for drummer and composer Mareike Wiening (Mar-eye-kuh Vee -ning) who delivers her second release with Future Memories. The quintet she assembled for this album is her original one, most of whom played on her debut Metropolis Paradise, excepting pianist Glenn Zaleski, who had broken his elbow and was thus replaced by Dan Tepfler. Her other collaborators are tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, guitarist Alex Goodman, and bassist Johannes Felscher.
Unlike her first album which was recorded in New York, this one was recorded in her homeland of Germany during a three-week European tour before the Covid shutdown. Weining points to a more organic sound on this outing, due mostly to so much time spent together on the tour, when they often discussed music, leading to more improvisational sound checks and a looser spirit among her band members. Weining says, “My band is scattered all over the world, we live in different time zones and are separate from each other. But our cohesion in the past, what we have experienced together, and our music will get us through the difficult present. We will stay positive.”
There is a relaxed, loose and distinct visual quality to the music as heard in the opening “Northern Sail,” which is initially characterized by the ostinato symbolizes the wind and waves. The reference is to Norway where Weining spent her childhood. The sound quality if terrific, and the spaciousness of the music allows each member to be clearly heard with guitarist Goodman and bassist Felscher especially impressive. “El Escorial” is based on a concert her band gave near Madrid during a folklore festival, thereby inspiring her to adapt some Spanish rhythms spread across different instruments while she holds it together on the kit. Relative to the opener it may sound disjointed and even dissonant but that owes to the scene of merriment and dancing that the leader was trying to convey in her composition.
As per her quote above there is a feeling of distance that imbues the album, heard first most directly in “An Idea Is Unpredictable.” Of course, Weining relates to the concept of distance, often commuting between Europe and the U.S. Zaleski’s tinkling piano, Goodman’s elongated guitar lines, and Perry’s floating saxophone conjure images of flight and in concept, the joining of opposites, before the solos ensure, first in clusters from Perry, followed by spirited interplay among the other four, led by Zaleski’s skittering piano. “RiChanges” is a complex rhythmic piece which has Perry fervently blowing a series of cascading notes over light comping from Zaleski and a pulsating rhythm section. At the four-minute mark, Zaleski makes his own jagged statement (NOTE: check out the pianist’s work on his brother’s Our Time, covered on these pages in October) before the band returns to the head. The title track is a sublimely gorgeous ballad featuring Perry, who delivers a clinic in tone and emotive phrasing. Weining composed the tune specifically with Perry in mind and he obliges admirably.
The solemn “The Other Soul” has the band playing in the delicate mode but in an entirely different mood than the opening “Northern Sail.” While it’s easy to focus on the solos, some of the unison passages, blending sax, guitar, and piano glow beautifully. The intricately woven “Seesaw March” is another of the more visual tunes, as one can envision small creatures or insects making their way toward a common destination. The band ends in upbeat fashion with “Dance into July” with rapid runs from Goodman, who leads with percolating rhythm support.
It seems that now more so than any other time in jazz history, drummers have not only assumed the role of band leader but composer too. Think in terms of Terri Lyne Carrington, Johnathan Blake, Allison Miller, and Ches Smith to name just a few. Mareike Wiening proves that she belongs in this same conversation with this impressive sophomore effort which clearly puts her intricate compositions front and center with her drumming, skilled as it is, in service to her detailed writing.
- Jim Hynes