Jazz meets Electronics meet Folk – Contrast Trio’s new creation is intense, danceable, and full of melancholy. For their third album "Letila Zozulya", the Frankfurt musicians – the youngest winners in the history of Hesse Jazz prize – traveled to Kiev to record with a Ukrainian choir. In ten days of own production, the band shaped a homogenous, stunning record unrelated to any one genre.
The story of this album is also the story of a road trip. In June 2017, Yuriy Sych, Tim Roth and Martin Standke drove to Kiev. The keyboarder, the bassist and the drummer were on their way to Yuriy's home. In 2003, the pianist had moved from Ukraine to Frankfurt, Germany, to study classical piano. Now, they went back East as a threesome. Three days in direction outer border of the EU, their van packed to the brim with accoustic and electronic instruments. After concerts in Krakow and Lviv, and hours of waiting at the border, Contrast Trio finally arrived at Kiev’s Dovchenko Studios. The huge film factory was built during Soviet Times in 1927. The three musicians positioned their instruments, microphones and a whole bunch of electronics right where the big orchestras once recorded the music for silent films (including the soundtrack to "Man with a Movie Camera").
For a period of almost two weeks, they jammed (with guest percussionist Florian Dreßler), recorded with local musicians and played concerts during off-times. "Never before have we experienced such an open-mindedness towards our music," says bassist Tim Roth. "It's rather unusual for Western bands to come to Ukraine. Standing ovations after each song are customary over there. "
Contrast Trio, founded in 2006, have mixed electronics with jazz before, but never have they gone that far. On "Letila Zozulya", the three thirty-somethings not only use beats and synthesizers, but also choirs. "We love to sing ourselves, but we wanted to incorporate traditional influences as well”, says Roth.
The two Ukrainian choirs, with their guttural phonation, bestow the album a beguiling and wondrous sound. "Cuckoo Flying" reflects the melancholic mood of Eastern European musical traditions with a four-piece choir, Yuriy's keyboards in combination with gentle piano, percussion and a wistful violin. In the English translation, it is the title piece of "Letila Zozulya", the electronic-acoustic arrangement of a folk song known by every child in Ukraine.
The Frankfurt musicians’ use of the piano is a rather percussive one. Typical Jazz Piano sounds are hard to find on "Letila Zozulya". Plucked piano strings, ethereal vocals and dry drum beats are prevalent, and even Disco handclaps on "Rule". The dancefloor is near, as are Scandinavian Nujazz stylings in the spirit of Bugge Wesseltoft.
The shift towards electronics was almost inevitable for Contrast Trio. "We've always listened to Techno and Minimal Music. It just took a while to be reflected in our music," says Tim Roth, who is the main songwriter along with Yuriy Sych.
The question remains: is this Jazz or Electro? The bassist says: "Our music is accessible, yet complex. Even people who have never listened to Jazz before enjoy our gigs. "
Contrast Trio combines Jazz, Ukrainian Folklore, House and Pop (as heard on "In The Bottle" with singer Insa Rudolph) to a compelling mix that never risks being shallow. Anyone listening to the flight of this colorful cuckoo will realize: the most exciting genre-bending music of 2018 is made by Contrast Trio.