The following is an excerpt from an article I wrote for All About Jazz:
Woodlander is an intriguing jazz combo out of Europe dedicated to breathing life into the original compositions of its founder, Swiss pianist Luzius Schuler. A trio marked by its sparseness, Woodlander is rounded off with trumpeter Mats Spillmann and drummer Jonas Ruther, both of whom recently collaborated with Schuler on Lucerne Jazz Orchestra’s Oaktree (QFTF) (Schuler and Ruther performed; Spillmann contributed a composition). Given the existing connections between these musicians, the persisting synergy that drives Calvins Toboggan should come as no surprise. This sense of oneness combined with vivid compositions and resourceful interplay makes for a strong debut that neatly straddles the line dividing accessibility from the avant-garde.
The elegant opener “Auren” manifests Schuler’s compositional prowess through its outwardly impulsive trajectory. Beginning with a dynamic drum pattern that supports a graceful melody, Schuler’s opulent harmonic progression erodes all rhythmic sense down to a wash of cymbals, eventually terminating with the resonant hum of piano and trumpet. Similarly, the hard-driving pulse of “Flash Da Trash” repeatedly gives way to brooding, ethereal passages before reclaiming its stride. These compositions are living, fluid pieces of music that wallow in states of uncertainty, but never fail to conclude with a sense of completion.
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