Way to Blue is Viennese double bass player-composer Gina Schwarz’s homage to British folk legend Nick Drake ((1948 – 1974) and to her father who passed away in 2020. This project began when Schwarz was invited as Composer in Residence to the Cologne Multiphonics Festival in 2020 and 2021, and she began writing the cycle of compositions the day after her father’s funeral in July 2020. Way to Blue proves, again, the healing power of music, its everlasting inspiration, as well as means to shape the way interpret and understand our lives.
Schwarz, like many, was deeply affected by Drake’s singular music, the desperate and touching melancholy, the tender hope and romanticism, elusive sensuality, the imaginative, poetic imagery as well as unique guitar playing with the jazz overtones. She mentions the songs «Way to Blue», «Riverman» and «Fruit Tree» (from Drake’s debut album Five Leaves Left, Island, 1969), «Things Behind the Sun» (from Drake’s third album Pink Moon, Island, 1972) and the songs that were published in assorted compilations after Drake’s death like «Clothes of Sand», «Strange Meeting II», «Blossom», «Come Into the Garden» and «Three Hours», as a source of inspiration for the music of Way to Blue (titled after one of the most popular compilations of Drake’s songs, Way to Blue: An Introduction to Nick Drake, Hannibal, 1994). Strangely, no mention of any song from Bryter Layter (Island, 1971), but its cover is part of the nostalgic booklet.
Schwarz composed and arranged a cycle of 18 short, chamber jazz pieces (seven pieces are even shorter interludes, improvised duets of Schwarz with her musicians) for the Multiphonics octet led by her while playing the double bass. She structured this cycle around a loose, story-like theme, just like Drake arranged his songs revolving around a story. Schwarz’s stories revolve around her childhood stories and family memories from the seventies, or as she articulates it: «life is but a memory happened long ago». Schwarz cleverly employs the distinct voices of the Multiphonics 8, as musicians and as co-writers, to evoke vivid images and nuanced stories, performed with a restrained sense of drama, elegance and colorful imagination. She transforms Drake’s British folk aesthetics into subtle and exotic, untimely and border-crossing folk traditions, and sketches deeply emotional and playful textures, but without sounding nostalgic.
Eyal Hareuveni – 09/2022