Reis Demuth Wiltgen

Luxembourg Jazz Meeting - showcases

Sunday 11 nov 2018, Neumünster Abbey in Grund, Luxembourg

Text & pics: Storm Bakker

ProgJazz attended the Luxembourg Jazz Meeting 2018, with 12 showcase concerts in the 'Salle Robert Krieps' in the Centre Culturel de Rencontre Abbaye de Neumünster – neimënster. One of these concerts was Reis Demuth Wiltgen.

Michel Reis

“All criticism starts in comparison. It’s something we just do naturally in all aspects of life.” Says Scottish journalist Brian Morton in the linernotes of ‘Once in a Blue Moon’, an album of the Luxembourg trio Reis Demuth Wiltgen. “The usual way to give a general sense of what a musican or a group sounds like, is to liken them to someone else.”

It is indeed often the case: reviewing an artist is first of all addressing his influences and sources, comparing him to the masters, regarding the cornerstones of the past he is preserving, analyzing the things he studied, the chops he copied… But sometimes, such comparison is not enough; it just doesn’t work… That is the case with Michel Reis. A wonderful pianist, with fine technique and rich diversity, a painter with a broad colourful pallet, using subtle brushstrokes, pointillism as well; distinct dots of melodic colors on the right hand side, applied in harmonic patterns on the left, all coming from the hands, with a straight back and without the strange spastic anticsof most modern keyboardists. Striking are his long single-not lines, during his improvisations, although he can also play pretty violent chords, as he said with a smile, after the impressive showcase at the Neumünster Abbey in Grund, Luxembourg. Reis appeared to be a self-confident young man, but not arrogant. He is -like all Luxembourg artists- modest.

We asked him about his sources of inspiration. Reis wisely distances himself from name-dropping, answering plain and simple: “well, just about anything…” Indeed, Reis is not peggable. He has his own sound and style, merging old and new, traditional and progressive, classical and improvised music. We asked him about his studies. After his Conservatory of Luxemburg, he moved to Boston to study at Berklee College of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music, piano and composition with Danilo Perez. He also learned from Joe Lovano, Dave Holland and (as Reis calls him “the ever unpredictable”) George Garzone. After moving to New York, he studied with composer and orchestrator David Spear, which he continues to do now and then. In the States, Reis soon was recognized as a “tremendous pianist” (Downbeat Magazine). Since, he performed worldwide, from the Blue Note in New York, to l’Olympia in Paris, also Asia and Africa. In 2006 he won the second prize at the Montreux Jazz Solo Piano Competition. He worked with many great artists, among those the late Didier Lockwood, ex-Magma. He moved back to Luxembourg and became a teacher at the Conservatoire de la Ville de Luxembourg. Two years in a row, Michel Reis won the Export Artist of the Year award from the Luxembourg export office music:LX, in 2013 with his trio Reis Demuth Wiltgen, and in 2014 as a solo artist. In 2018 again, he was featured during the Luxembourg Jazz Meeting, with his Japan Quartet (see elsewhere on this website) and also with Marc Demuth and Paul Wiltgen. Both concerts were very impressive, featuring Reis as an impressive pianist. To quote a small point of criticism: Reis doesn't rape the instrument; he has a tendency to seek out consonant and avoid dissonant information; he always plays with a focus on clair beauty.

Reis Demuth Wiltgen

On Sunday morning the trio Reis Demuth Wiltgen performed at the Luxembourg Jazz Meeting. The trio already exists for over 20 years, pausing for a few years in 2003 when Reis and Wiltgen moved to the States, while Marc Demuth studied in Bruxelles and the The Hague, with Hein van de Geyn and Frans van der Hoeven. Wiltgen played with Kurt Rosenwinkel and Brian Seeger among others. In 2011 the three friends re-united and their first album was released in 2013 for the French label Laborie Jazz. And this year, 2018, Reis Demuth Wiltgen released their second album, ‘Once in a Blue Moon’ on the CAMJazz label, which was beautifully recorded and produced in Cavalicco Udinese, Italy in 2017. It is the tenth album of Michel Reis.

During their showcase at the Luxemburg Jazz Meeting the trio played several pieces from that album, and some other works. The first piece ‘Freedom trail’ (composed by Reis), also the opening of the album, was a straight groove with subtle flams on snare, contagious flowing afterbeat patterns, evolving in a swinging shuffle crescendo, while Reis freely soloing with his right hand and a massive anthem-like finale. A very good start, despite the noise caused by the latecomers who had trouble to be seated. The second piece, ‘Small Talk’ (“the most difficult piece in the repertoire”, as Meis said afterwards) was composed by drummer Wiltgen and contained some up tempo odd meter patterns (mostly in 5 and 2:5), full of close to the edge drumfills and fast piano licks. It sounds like the second piece of the album, which however is called ‘Pulse’. The third piece was '22. May 2015' (composed by Michel Reis, also from the album), a feel good piece with piano arpeggio’s upon a brush groove, a composition in the Ionian mode style of Keith Jarrett (to do a little comparison anyway). The fourth piece was a beautiful ballad, called ‘Sunrise in Juba’, introduced by beautiful jazz harmonies on piano by its composer Reis, in which Demuth later on showed some strong non-vibrato features on the upright bass. The next piece was ‘Where the heart beats’ (by Michel Reis), a kind of a straight 6/8 waltz, based upon modal changes, leading toward a very exciting drum vamp. It has a folkloristic almost danceable twist, with little chords on every eight, an inspiring bass solo and some of the most unsurpassed piano riffs ever heard. The audience justly showed its respect and the room resounded with cheering and applauding. The last piece was ‘Cross country’ (Michel Reis) - with a wondeful bass solo in the end. Afterwards we told Reis and Demuth we had “chicken pocks”, meaning of course “goose bumps”… The guys had to laugh. “In that case, don’t come to close!”

Joshua Redman

This year, the trio toured with US saxophonist Joshua Redman, who -after discovering the trio at a festival in France in 2014 and falling in love with their music- proposed a collaboration at Festival Printemps Musical in 2016. That Redman really digs the Luxembourg trio is shown by the fact that he performs several of the trio’s compositions with his own band. Redman calls the trio “very modern, uncompromising, really lyrical, melodic and at times very cinematic, refreshing and they have an unique approach to composition; they are storytellers”. This love affair was mutual, says Reis, emphasizing the fatct Redman reallyintegrates into the group as a fourth member in stead of a featured famous soloist. One of the highlights was a concert together with the Luxembourg Symphony Orchestra at the Philharmonie Luxembourg under the baton of Vince Mendoza. In 2019 Reis Demuth Wiltgen will again be on tour with Joshua Redman in Europe. We hope to witness them again next year, with or without Redman. .


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