Quiescence and awakening. Tradition and innovation. Body and soul. Rolf Kühn finds such opposing forces attractive. With his new album "Yellow + Blue", the 88-year-old clarinetist once again improvises and swings his way through uncharted musical territory. "Europe's greatest clarinetist and free spirit" (Jazzthetik) plays ballads and legendary love songs on his new MPS album. In so doing, he delivers new meaning and a fresh sound to the pieces. A sentimental look back is simply not his thing. Together with his new quartet of pianist Frank Chastenier, bassist Lisa Wulff, and percussionist Tupac Mantilla, Kühn contrasts his sensitive side with his unbridled desire to experiment.
One of five new compositions, the title song "Yellow + Blue" encapsulates the two perspectives: the flamboyant, the impulsively vibrant yellow next to the soft, sensitive, warm bluesy-blue tonal color. In turn, a new musical color is created out of the contrast.
The son of a circus acrobat, Rolf Kühn was born in 1929 in Cologne, Germany, and, regardless of the difference in age, there is a palpable admiration between Kühn and his much younger fellow musicians. Kühn’s other recordings for the MPS label, 2015’s "Stereo" and 2016's "Spotlights", consisted of continually changing constellations of duos, trios and quartets. With "Yellow + Blue", the two-time ECHO prize-winner once again unfurls "great music in a small group format" (West German Regional Newspaper). In the process he has created a surprising concatenation of tonal colors. Kühn enthused, "We were already having big fun on the first day of rehearsal. I immediately felt that we had the right chemistry. From the first moment on it was an exchange of ideas among equals, and there was an unusual feeling of mutual trust."
The clarinetist infuses every standard with the memories of his musical relation to the piece over the decades. His play is living jazz history. The repertoire ranges from a favorite of Ella's and Sinatra's, "Angel Eyes", through the Michel Legrand standard, "What Are You Doing The Rest of Your Life", to the song that Marilyn Monroe made immortal in the film "Some Like It Hot", "I'm Through With Love".
For the first time in his career, Kühn has recorded that jazz ballad par excellence, "Body and Soul". This master clarinetist still sees himself as a learner on his instrument. He also feels that every piece has its innocence, something pure, and he aims to probe those essentials. "In doing this, the text is very important to me. When I play I always have it in my head; that and how can I get the clarinet, in all its fullness, to sound like a human voice?"
The prestigious Die Welt newspaper labeled Rolf Kühn "Germany's coolest jazz musician". In the 1950's, Kühn got a taste of the Swing Era when he played in the Benny Goodman Orchestra. Since then, Kühn has been involved in every movement in modern jazz; today he plays with more freedom and daring than ever before. His new album "Yellow + Blue" bears witness to a more than 70-year affair – an insatiable, thrilling love for his life-long friend, net.