Joshua reviews duo Johannes Schenk und Ishu’s debut album
Today, regrettably, things have gone so far that when we hear the term ‘meditation music’ we almost expect to hear synthetic angel choirs or sweet guitar sounds, embedded in an artificial acoustic ambience with the most simple and predicted melody sequences to just such chords. Personally, I think that this kind of music has neither anything to do with meditation nor with art – but has unfortunately contributed, quite heavily, to the fact that the otherwise neutral term ‘meditation music’ has become almost synonymous with kitsch and bad taste in the pseudo-spiritual environment of New Age.
All the more surprised was I when I listened to the debut album Seven Tales from the River by pianist Johannes Schenk and saxophonist Ishu. The choice of instruments for an album of this genre immediately made me curious. First of all, I would consider a meditative album with a combination of saxophone and piano, quite common in jazz, an interesting challenge.
For me, the great art of meditative music is precisely to express a lot with very little. Really good meditative music should awaken in the listener a certain calmness and depth; the sound celebrates – as it were – the silence surrounding the listener. This requires almost more artistic maturity, content and musicality than it does for many other musical forms.
In short, with this debut album as a duo, the two have done good ‘work’! Now the word ‘work’ might not go with meditation – we would rather think in terms of ‘flow’ and ‘letting go’. But as a musician myself I know how much work is required if you want to create this space, a space which the two have been exploring here seemingly without effort.
I really enjoyed this cool and yet warm space that they create. Of course, for me, it has a lot to do with the ‘invisible third party’, the musical presence of the late doyen and jazz saxophonist Charlie Mariano who, many decades ago, intensively investigated India’s meditative music. His spirit is felt in this album and, with the interpretation of his compositions here, it elicits a few refreshing Indian scales, such as the ragas Hansadhwani and Shiv Ranjani without making the album sound somehow ‘Indian’.
Review by Prem Joshua – previously published in the Osho Times International (German edition)
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Seven Tales from the River (trailer)
Listen to three excerpts: Seven Tales from the River (trailer)
Ishu (Michael Lohmann) is a saxophone player and a journalist. He has been writing for the German Osho Times for many years. As a musician he was trained by the legendary jazz musician Charlie Mariano.
Johannes Schenk started to play piano when he was about six years old. His father was a church musician, so he learned to play the organ as well. After visiting the music academy he worked with various musical formations and bands. Particularly successful was his collaboration with the famous alto saxophonist Charlie Mariano. Together they recorded three albums. Two with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach and one with Indian music. www.johannes-schenk.de