Jazzwise | 05-20

Gina Schwarz is a leading exhibit on the Austrian jazz scene, one of the country’s finest bass players critically acclaimed composer and arranger.
Pannonica is a neat summation of why she’s so highly rated. Her bass playing has a delightfully large, pleasingly round tone (she’s known as “The Baroness of low notes and deep sounds” in her homeland) and her impeccable articulation and intonation are enough to scare many a fledgling bassist into another line of work.

At first glance you might think ‘Not another Monk tribute, please!’ – but while the pianist’s questing, exploratory spirit might hover high over the proceedings – and, one suspects, fellow countryman Max Nagl’s influence might be in there at well (Nagl’s ‘Enticing’ / Schwarz’ ‘Dark Glasses’ for example) – there’s no Monk composition in sight. Schwarz’s band, formed in 2017/18 and called Pannoica, has an interesting combination of instruments that are perfectly suited to her compositions.

The album is divided into 2 parts: CD1 represents the repertoire of her band when it began its life with a residency in Vienna’s Porgy & Bess Club; while CD 2 presents her newly arranged material. It’s a set you can get your teeth into, full of quirky surprises, abrupt left hand turns, well executed ensembles and some exceptional solo work – especially Raab on trumpet and Hofmaninger on soprano sax and bass clarinet – underpinned by the leader’s big bass sound; here is a band that should really be much better known.

Stuart Nicholson – May 2020