Mareike Wienig - Future Memories
Mareike Wiening - drums
Rich Perry Tenor - saxophone
Glenn Zaleski - piano
Alex Goodman - guitar
Johannes Felscher - bass
Often the question arises how one can and wants to follow up a successful debut album with the second album. Does one rely on the same concept? Or does one look for ways to show a new facet of musical creation?
For the drummer Mareike Wiening, born in 1987 in Erlangen near Nuremberg, a completely different challenge arises. Shortly before the recording session of the debut album Metropolis Paradise with her New York quintet, pianist Glenn Zaleski broke his elbow and Dan Tepfer stepped in for him. It so happens that the second album, Future Memories, featuring Rich Perry (tenor sax), Alex Goodman (guitar), Johannes Felscher (bass) and Glenn Zaleski (piano), is actually the first with the original lineup.
Wiening assembled the quintet at the time of her master's concert at New York University in 2014, by which time she had been living in the U.S. East Coast metropolis for two years. When she began playing drums as a teenager, American jazz was a significant reference point for the musician. In her last NYU year, vibraphonist Stefon Harris was her teacher, among others in composition. Harris has developed a harmonic concept in which every note is linked to a feeling. For the young percussionist from Germany, this concept was an aha experience. And with the harmony of Guillermo Klein, who also taught her, she was given a vessel into which she could let her then equally emotional and intellectual modern jazz flow.
Even though Cologne has become the center of work and life for the drummer since 2019, New York remains the reference for Wiening's jazz - also and especially because she plays together with her American quintet. Even before that, she toured extensively and often with her musicians; over in North America as well as in Europe. Just before the outbreak of the Corona pandemic in March 2020, Wiening decided to go into the studio again with her quintet - this time she chose River Studios in Cologne during a three-week European tour.
The interplay of the five musicians* has become more natural in its anticipatory attitude on Future Memories, which is why the five know how to deal with each other even more intuitively and can shape their improvisational art eloquently phrasing, expressively. Wiening's original concept of "emotional" harmony and melodicism is still determinant and present for the improvisation - yet some things have changed. "On our tours, the five of us are together for a long time," says the drummer. "In the process, we often talk about music in our free time. Of course, these conversations also flow into the sound check before a concert, where we like to improvise freely. I often record that to get inspiration for new compositions later."
After seven years, this method of Wiening's to write her music to fit the members of her band has turned the Mareike Wiening Quintet project into a cooperative group. The moment the German bandleader finishes writing a composition, she releases it for editing by Zaleski, Perry, Goodman and Felscher. This creative process is then also responsible for the fact that Wiening's modern jazz is always per se under tension - rhythmically as well as harmonically and melodically. This has led to having a new voice at hand with the combination of piano and guitar. On the one hand, Wiening uses the guitar as another melodic instrument alongside the saxophone; on the other, Goodman and Zaleski have gotten to know each other so well that they enlarge their chords ad hoc into plump clusters of notes. "Alex and Glenn have found their own way to contribute without getting in each other's way," Wiening says.
Several tracks on the record are inspired by places Wiening has either visited with her quintet or are personally meaningful to her. "Northern Sail," for example, refers to Norway, where Wiening spent her childhood and is still often in the summer. "That sense of freedom and connection to the water and nature are so special and a welcome balance to the often hectic city life," Wiening says. "This is also evident in the music: the ostinato at the beginning symbolizes the wind and waves of the sea, while the melody glides over it in a relaxed way, giving the listener a sense of 'no stress, no worries, just look.'"
Or "El Escorial," which is based on a concert Wiening's band gave in a village near Madrid. Because of a folklore festival, the place was filled with music and dancing. "My goal was to adapt some Spanish rhythms that I divide among the instruments of my band. Accordingly, the mood of the piece is somewhat 'chaotic' and dissonant, but always groovy."
The album is characterized by distance. "Unlike when I wrote Metropolis Paradise, when I was composing for Future Memories I was no longer living in New York," Wiening explains. "I no longer had my band with whom I regularly rehearsed and played in New York before 2019 and was able to try things out on a constant basis. Now I had to imagine my band, the sound, the different characters, compose 'out of my head' so to speak. Only on tour could we really work on the compositions and develop them." In "An Idea is Unpredictable," the musician primarily processed her move back to Europe and her re-entry into German life.
As a ballad, the title track "Future Memories" is a feature for saxophonist Perry. "He plays ballads like no one else," the drummer enthusiastically explains. "That's all this piece needs: Rich's unique phrasing, lots of feeling and the art of floating above the chords."
But the name "Future Memories" has another, philosophical layer. The eight pieces of Wiening's quintet were written before the Corona crisis, just as the studio session took place even before. But also, and precisely for that reason, the album provides an idea of what improvised music and jazz are capable of: namely, establishing an imaginary point in time in the future from which the present can be reflected upon as something already past. "My band is scattered all over the world, we live in different time zones and are separate from each other," Wiening says. "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." That seems more necessary than ever in turbulent times like these.