Monday, November 27, 2023

Mareike Wiening - Reveal

Mareika Wiening is one of my favourite jazz drummers and composers these days. Her original music is compelling and is played by a great band, the core of which she's managed to keep together over the course of several albums now. And she is also a dynamic drummer whose original style is rooted in the tradition while also progressive and original that matches her compositional concept perfectly.

Mareike is a busy person and she was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about her new music below.

Photo ©Wolf Peter Steinhei├čer

Mareike Wiening, percussionist and composer, spent six years in Brooklyn, New York, where she cultivated her musical career. Since 2019, she has been commuting between the United States and Cologne, Germany, while actively participating in the international jazz scene.

Her career as an independent jazz musician encompasses a diverse array of projects and ensembles in New York and Europe. Since 2022, she has been serving as a lecturer in jazz percussion at the Zurich University of the Arts.

The Mareike Wiening Quintet, featuring longstanding musical partners Rich Perry, Glenn Zaleski, Alex Goodman, and Johannes Felscher, was nominated for the 2022 German Jazz Award. In November 2023, their third album, Reveal, is set to release on the renowned New York label of Dave Douglas, Greenleaf Music.

Concert tours have taken her across Germany, Denmark, France, Switzerland, Slovenia, Norway, Lithuania, Brazil, and the United States. Mareike Wiening has graced prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, Blue Note NYC, Jazzgallery NY, Jazzclub Unterfahrt, A-trane Berlin, the New York Winter Jazz Festival, the Atlanta Jazz Festival, and the Elbjazz Hamburg. She has also contributed to musical and theatrical productions in Europe and Off-Broadway shows in New York City. In 2023, she made an appearance in the documentary “Jazz Fever,” which was screened in theatres throughout Germany.

Mareike Wiening has collaborated with renowned musicians such as John Zorn, Stefon Harris, Dan Tepfer, Dayna Stephens, Fabian Almazan, Johannes Enders, Adrian Mears, Ben Wendel, and many others. Her exceptional performances have earned her accolades, and she serves as a MEINL endorser for cymbals and sticks.

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Photo ©Luke Marantz

Mareika Wiening Reveal - Four on the Floor: November 2023

1) Tell us about your latest recording!

My new album, "Reveal," is an embodiment of my recent life experiences and observations, both global and personal. The process of creating this album began as I looked around at the world, witnessing the significant changes and challenges we've all faced: the global pandemic, the ongoing war in Ukraine, and the political strife not just in the U.S. but across Europe. These tumultuous events, alongside my return to Germany from New York after six years and personal trials, including the loss of a close family member and societal pressures, have deeply influenced my creative process. "Reveal" emerged from a desire not to dwell in the darkness of these challenges, but to find light and hope within them. 

This album is a journey of introspection, a search for the core essence that first connected me to music.In crafting "Reveal," I realized that in times of uncertainty and change, music could be a source of comfort and inspiration. It's a reminder that, amidst the turmoil, there remains a constant – the enduring power of music to uplift, heal, and connect us. This album is a reflection of my journey as a person and a musician, navigating a world of uncertainty with the solace and joy that music brings.

2) How did you choose your repertoire and sidemen?

I composed the songs during the last year and recorded with my longtime working quintet. But I also had the urge of adding another voice for certain tunes. I always wanted to pair Rich with a second horn player and was looking for strong artistic voice that would fit the overall band sound. That’s why I asked esteemed trumpeter and Greenleaf founder Dave Douglas. He was the perfect fit!

3) What inspired you to pursue the vibe and instrumentation that you did?

The instrumentation is set through my longtime working band. Musically, I wanted to explore a broader palette of textures and emotions, blending the traditional elements of jazz with contemporary influences.

4) Was there a particular message you were trying to convey to the listener?

I aimed to convey a message of resilience, introspection, and hope. Through the compositions, I wanted to take listeners on a journey that mirrored my own experiences during a period marked by significant global and personal challenges. The album is an invitation to delve into a spectrum of emotions, from contemplation and sorrow to optimism and strength.
It's about finding beauty and strength in vulnerability, and the transformative power of music to heal and uplift.

5) Who are your influences with regards to your style of writing and playing?

Guillermo Klein for sure! Playing drums: definitely Elvin Jones and Bill Stewart these days.

6) What are you practicing/studying/listening to/researching these days?

Researching how to compose and arrange for symphonic orchestra and that’s why also listening to a lot of different pieces from Stravinsky to Bach and modern pieces. I’m always transcribing solos or small ideas and try to develop those on the drums.

I also get inspired by my students at the Conservatory in Zurich. They all have very different backgrounds and difficulties and often I try to challenge myself in getting involved in new territories.

7) What other current and future projects do you have on the go at the moment?

I got a commission to write a piece for orchestra and also arrange it. That’s going to be a major project for the next several month as I have no experience in writing for orchestra. I’m very much looking forward to this challenge though. Otherwise I’m very active with the trio and quartet of Korean pianist Gee Hye Lee. Also preparing for a couple new projects I’m involved in that will start in 2024.

8) How does the drums and your overall approach to rhythm factor into your compositions and concept?

First of all I compose mainly on the piano. Once the tune is mostly finished I always sit down at the drums and try out the composition, see how it feels, try out different grooves, change little things to improve the overall flow of the tune. Rhythms are very important. If I can make the tune groove by playing it together with the midi file, it’s usually done.

9) What drummers or other musicians do you consider as influences?

Elvin Jones, Brad Mehldau, Philly Joe Jones and Bill Stewart

10) What advice do you have for younger, aspiring jazz musicians and jazz drummers?

For aspiring jazz musicians and drummers, focus on mastering the fundamentals of jazz and your instrument. Immerse yourself in diverse jazz styles and practice as much as possible to improve your technique and improvisational skills. Play with others as much as possible to develop your sense of timing and ensemble playing, and always stay open to learning and experimenting.

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