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Timo Vollbrecht's Givers & Takers. Acoustic delicateness with otherworldly soundscapes of orchestral width / occhimag

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FLY MAGIC is saxophonist-composer, bandleader, and scholar Timo Vollbrecht’s longstanding signature ensemble. A genre-exploding unit with a bold sense of creativity and intent. After two acclaimed records and performances in over 30 countries, their third album, Givers & Takers, marks a new chapter: It conjures acoustic delicateness with otherworldly electronic soundscapes of orchestral width. Recorded in the studio while on a 12-date-tour, it captures the unique chemistry the four musicians developed on the road while using the stage as their laboratory.

Originally from Germany and based out of New York, Timo Vollbrecht is a celebrated creative force on the Brooklyn music scene who fuses jazz with post-rock, electronics, and instrumental songwriting. Described as a “luminously-fine bandleader” by the NYC Jazz Record, he has performed at landmark stages like the Village Vanguard. He is also the new Director of Jazz Studies at Brown University. Together with Keisuke Matsuno (guitar), Elias Stemeseder (piano & synthesizers), and Dayeon Seok (drums), he formed a band with no bassist. Instead, Stemeseder - who just led his residency at John Zorn’s iconic Stone venue - plays synth-bass while his other hand operates other keys.

OCCHI  writes….Saxophonist-composer, bandleader and scholar Timo Vollbrecht’s signature ensemble Fly Magic is back.  With two acclaimed records and performances spanning 30 countries, the band’s third album, Givers & Takers, conjures acoustic delicateness with otherworldly electronic soundscapes of orchestral width. It’s a genre-exploding unit with a fresh sense of creativity, exploration, and intent. It was recorded in the studio during a 12-date-tour.

Now based out of New York, the German-born Vollbrecht is a much celebrated creative force on Brooklyn’s music scene and is known for blending jazz with post-rock, electronics, and instrumental songwriting.  He is the new Director of Jazz Studies at Brown University. Together with Keisuke Matsuno (guitar), Elias Stemeseder (piano & synthesizers), and Dayeon Seok (drums), he formed a band with no bassist. Instead, Stemeseder – who just led his residency at John Zorn’s iconic Stone venue – plays synth-bass while his other hand operates other keys.

Givers & Takers refers to Timo’s underlying sense of community through music: “Music is first and foremost a social praxis,” he states, “It is about human connection and the lived experience of people feeling together and inspiring one another. These surrounding social aspects traditionally deemed as ‘extra-musical’ are actually not extra-musical at all – they form an essential part of the music’s most inner fabric.” The album emerges from this place of human interactivity. It features four musically synergetic friends of diverse backgrounds entering into an improvisational dialog marked by mutual trust. Giving and Taking is a natural part of this process. The fact that Givers & Takers is also the name of their favorite bar in Brooklyn underpins the importance that Timo and his bandmates assign to the quotidian gathering. “It is emblematic for what it means for us to be part of a scene.”

It follows that Timo’s pieces for this album celebrate the big and small gestures of everyday life. The opener Pau is named after his first-born child and features the band’s tender, improvisational interplay. In contrast, Happy Happy exudes high energy and “is my intent to write a happy tune,” Timo explains, “juxtaposed with destructive elements to make for an epic ending.” Brighton Blues refers to Brighton Beach in Brooklyn. This modern blues highlights the artists’ approach to fresh ideas in connection to their tradition-informed identity. Art is Live is a suite that borrows its name from a concert series set up by friends to keep the arts community alive during the pandemic lockdowns. Three movements express the experience amidst an uncertain future during that time: I. Solidarity, II. Solitude, and III. Agency, with the latter being a nod to the roaring Black Lives Matter movement and music as a force for change.

The new album illustrates Timo Vollbrecht’s vision of a band as truly original. The Album is out October 21st on Berthold Records .

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