Artists

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Amarcord Wien
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Andy Scherrer
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Aydin Esen
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beefolk
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Benedikt Jahnel
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Brian Blade
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Chris Cheek
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Christian Muthspiel
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Dhafer Youssef
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Elisabeth Kulman
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Grigoryan Brothers
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Helgi Jonsson
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Jean Paul Brodbeck
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Joris Roelofs
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Larry Grenadier
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Levin
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Lisette Spinnler
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Marc Johnson
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Martin Reiter
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Max Frankl
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Mick Goodrick
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Paolo Thorsen-Nagel
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Ralph Towner
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Rebekka Bakken
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Scott Colley
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Steve Arguelles
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Triology
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Wolfgang Muthspiel
  biography
  discography
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Paolo Thorsen-Nagel

AND ON, the debut album by guitarist Paolo Thorsen-Nagel and the PAOLO THORSEN-NAGEL PROJEKT

And On is Paolo Thorsen-Nagel's dazzling debut release on Material Records. The young German-American guitarist has put forth a melodic and surprisingly mature collection of songs, at once lush and minimal. There is a certain calm decisiveness to Thorsen-Nagel's compositions: nothing is rushed, every track is unique, yet, taken as a whole, the album showcases a striking and singular sensibility. There's no doubt that this shining new Switzerland-based jazz guitarist and composer has learned his craft well and waited for the right moment for his debut. Although And On is Thorsen- Nagel's first official mark on the jazz scene, he has been surrounded by music his entire life. Growing up in the Bavarian countryside, he started studying classical guitar as a child, then quickly switched to jazz when he began studying with local jazz hero and saxophonist Johannes Enders and the other greats that passed by his home to play at his mother's jazz venue: Karl Ratzer, Peter O'Mara, and Marc Abrams, among them. Thorsen-Nagel's hometown of Weilheim, renowned for it's celebrated indie and electronica scene (The Notwist, Lali Puna, Acid Pauli), gave him far-ranging inspiration for his own vision of music to come. "From my earliest conception of And On, I had the desire to record songs that reflected my various interests and aesthetics - contemporary jazz and ambient sounds, minimal music and song structures - and place them in the context of a jazz setting," he notes tellingly.

Although the music of And On conveys an overall feeling of subtle correlation - be it in style, instrumentation, or structure - the album also shows a clear devotion to jazz and it's essence: improvisation. After playing in the Youth Jazz Orchestra of Bavaria and receiving awards at various Youth Jazz competitions, Thorsen-Nagel left Germany for Basel, Switzerland, where he studied jazz guitar and composition with such masters as Wolfgang Muthspiel, Fred Frith, and Gerry Hemingway. During his studies he continued leading his own groups, playing at Jazzfestival Basel, Langnau Jazz Nights, and ArtBasel, and in this way making himself heard - as a refined player and a captivating live performer. He captured the attention of Swiss Radio (SRF2 Kultur) and its jazz producer Peter Bürli, who decided to co-executive produce And On. The album was recorded at Volkshaus Studio Basel with renowned sound director Daniel Dettwiler, who achieved an immense, realistic spaciousness, making this record not only a vivid appropriation of the music played but an auditory gem in itself.

As a sign of the esteem in which they hold him, Thorsen-Nagel was able to put together a stellar cast of first-rate players for his debut: the ECHO jazz award winner and long-time friend Johannes Enders plays tenor and soprano sax; the renowned Swiss player Matthieu Michel is on flugelhorn; Germany's shooting star Pablo Held is on piano; bassist Arne Huber is a steady force on the South-German jazz scene; and drummer Daniel Mudrack is sought after for an array of projects. And yet And On never gives the impression of individual virtuosos showing off their chops. "Even though the line-up features brilliant players in their own right, I put together the ensemble with the idea of producing an integrated band sound - one where the collective is bigger than the soloist," Thorsen-Nagel observes. "I wanted to create an
atmosphere in which the different instruments and textures could move freely and blend continuously to form a unique whole."

 

 

 

The opening track of And On gives us a unified, natural-flowing introduction to the band: the guitar starts with a lush melody, which is then repeated in unison with a mellow tenor tone. Gradually bass, piano, and flugelhorn enter, only to enhance the vastness of the opening, yet slowly directing the band towards a new section: a shimmering guitar ostinato laying the bed for one of the most moving saxophone solos on the record. In contrast, the second track, "In It But Not Quite of It," a composition in 5/4, provides a faster pace and highlights Thorsen-Nagel's distinctive voice as a composer. Bright, arpeggiated guitar harmonies are followed by a rockish rhythm section flow and a rapidly intertwined saxophone and flugelhorn tectonic. Apart from it's musical significance the title also took on a larger meaning in the making of the album. "In it, but not quite of it," Thorsen-Nagel reveals, "is a quote by pianist Matthew Shipp that I came across. Shipp was describing Thelonious Monk's otherworldly genius, but I've also come to think of his words as a description of the music on this record. It was important to me to incorporate influences outside of the jazz world and use them as compositional devices - to stay in the jazz language of improvisation but to converse in a slightly different dialect."

All of the tracks on the record were composed by Thorsen-Nagel while he was on a winter residency at Casa Zia Lina in Elba, Italy. And there are traces of an austere and intimate island feeling in some of the songs. Yet throughout the album Thorsen-Nagel employs a variety of instrumentations to best suit each song's mood: ranging from a full band sextet orchestration, quintets and quartets, and a trio of guitar, bass, and drums, to solo guitar introductions that the bandleader recorded during post-production, adding yet another layer to the album's multifaceted narrative. For example, the third track, "From the Archives," features a heart-felt solo spot by Matthieu Michel and again showcases Thorsen-Nagel's urge to combine seemingly estranged styles. The velvety flugelhorn lines unfold free-flowingly over a steady drum beat, that resembles jazzy hip-hop or R&B grooves.

"I was less interested in making an idealistic album in one style or genre, rather than giving the listener a bigger picture of my personal musical universe, one that encompasses my background as well as my current activities." It is the last quarter of And On that gives the clearest impression of what those other activities might be. "Always R," for instance, ends with an evolving array of loops and quietly humming sub-basses. The final track Reprise reminds us of the opening guitar riff - this time fully soaked in reverse and delay effects. And the song title "I've Got a Radio in My Head" might just be the most literal nod to Thorsen-Nagel's rock background, which he is also pursuing actively as a member of experimental noise pop band Aie Ca Gicle, and as Mystics, his more minimal solo project. With recent and highly acclaimed performances at the famous art exhibition documenta(13), in Kassel, Germany, and at Kunsthalle Basel in Switzerland, there seems to be no limit to where his prodigious talent might lead him. And what's with the title And On? "For me this album is a starting point in my musical path, a calling, but also something that is going to be continued. A first outing that's meaning is bound to change over time."

Press

"Der Gitarrist bewegt sich zielgerichtet, auf seine Musik hin konzentriert, verschmilzt dabei quasi mit seinem Instrument. Seine Bewegungen wirken wie die eines guten Handwerkers – harmonisch und trotz den wilden Gitarrenriffs unaufgeregt."
- Neue Zürcher Zeitung (May, 2012)