Christoph Stiefel Septet

Label: Challenge Records
Format: CD
Barcode: 0608917341829
Catalog number: CR 73418
Releasedate: 11-03-16
- European Jazz elite
- Septet formed around bandleader and pianist Christoph Stiefel, incl. members Arne Huber (bass) and Kevin Chesham (drums) with who he also formes the Inner Language Trio

- Use of many unusual timbres

- Use of (medieval) isorhythmic and other extraordinary rhythmic processes
For over a decade now Christoph Stiefel has been expanding his musical cosmos – the basic cell of which uses isorhythms from the Middle Ages – in an exemplary manner. But he doesn’t just do this with admirable consistency, rather he allows his intuition to guide him in the end. Special conceptual ideas, therefore, serve him as a guide, but ultimately he seeks sensuality and emotional expressiveness.
The lynchpin of Stiefel’s work is his Inner Language Trio, to which belong the bassist Arne Huber and drummer Kevin Chesham, two extraordinarily musicians who differentiate rhythms in moving and clairaudient ways. This trio forms, so-to-speak, the nucleus of his septet, and now, after having given concerts for four-years, they are, at last, releasing a first album of their music.  In the fascinating multi-layered compositions and arrangements for septet, Stiefel has also developed ideas even further, going back to his solo-program and to his collaboration with the singer Lisette Spinnler. Sarah Buechi, whose quartet has caused a stir in recent years, gives the septet a female voice, which is distinguished by an equal amount of expressive power and lyrical suppleness. She blends into the instrumental structure ingeniously (similar to what Lauren Newton did in the Vienna Art Orchestra). With such excellent entourage, Stiefel could have actually taken an easy path: the principle of a soloist relay à la Jazz Messengers would certainly not be a bad option given this great pool of improvisers (and sometimes the solos really do take off here). But Stiefel wanted more. And he has managed this. For example, he has often seamlessly integrated improvised passages in composed contexts. Or created an incredible wealth of unusual timbres, resulting in a kind of “trompe-l’oreille”: are there really only seven people at work? And added to all this, there is the formal richness of his pieces.

Born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1961, the pianist became a permanent band member of Andreas Vollenweider & Friends at the age of 23. He toured with the band from 1984 to 1989 through Europe, Australia, Japan and the USA. Around the same time he decided to drop out of law school, he began to work on his own projects, with which he has already produced and published 16 CDs internationally.

After his earlier musical interests inspired him to create projects in world music, Nujazz, Fusion and even to compose a “classical” concert for piano, two percussionists and string orchestra (world premiere in 1998), he has turned intensively to jazz piano music and composition in the last 15 years.
He became well known internationally in the last few years, in particular, for his own compositional style, through which he has created a contemporary type of jazz by using a compositional technique from the Middle Ages (isorhythm) – his music oscillates between intensive grooves and tonal color painting in a fascinating manner. For years, he has fostered this compositional style, mostly in his “Inner Language Trio”, which manages the balancing act between precise conceptual work and unleashed improvisation with such aplomb as few other formations in the current jazz scene.

Stiefel’s extraordinary compositions as well as his special way of playing the piano have opened the doors to interesting new projects, among others, a duo performance with the Japanese dancer Hideto Heshiki, a duo with the vocalist Lisette Spinnler, the foundation of the septet “Christoph Stiefel Septet” along with several of the best Swiss and German jazz musicians, as well as a new band, the “Karl Seglem & Christoph Stiefel Group” with excellent musicians from Norway and Denmark (CD release “Waves” on Challenge Records 2015).

Since 2000, Christoph Stiefel has been an instructor for piano and keyboards in the Jazz Department at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts.

In 2012, he received a cultural award – a one-year working grant – from the City of Zurich, called “Werkjahr Jazz.”