On a Monday night in Berlin
If you’re ever at a loose end in Berlin on a Monday night, my advice would be to head for A-Trane, the jazz club in Charlottenburg, where Andreas Schmidt, a pianist, composer and teacher at the city’s Jazz Institut, holds a weekly free-admission session featuring a changing cast of friends and students.
Last night he began his set with a quintet featuring two young tenor saxophonists, Nicholas Biello and Marc Doffey, the bassist Oliver Potratz and the drummer Ivars Aratyunun, playing a deceptive simply Schmidt original, “Closing Partners”, on which the instrumental combination and the all-round deftness and intelligence brought to mind Tony Williams’s first two Blue Note albums, Life Time and Spring, which teamed the tenors of Wayne Shorter and Sam Rivers.
Of the two saxophonists at A-Trane, Doffey had the lighter sound while Biello’s tone was darker and his delivery more intense. It was a lovely combination, and it worked equally well on the other number they played together, an abstraction of “All the Things You Are”, quite exquisitely supported by the rhythm section, before leaving the stage to other combinations for the rest of the evening.
Schmidt is a fine pianist, the salient features of his playing located somewhere between the Paul Bley of the mid-’60s and the Chick Corea of Now He Sings, Now He Sobs. You might get an idea of his approach if I say that his first album was made (in 1995) with Lee Konitz, and a later one comprised a duo with Gary Peacock. His music is cerebral, but on the evidence I’ve heard it never lacks wit and humanity.
Just two tunes by this ad hoc quintet, then, and a barely half an hour of music, but this was the sort of serendipitous encounter that, however much you loved jazz before, makes you love it even more.