Music Portrait | posted 14.05.2020
Muriel Grossmann
Abstraction with a sea view
Saxophonist Muriel Grossmann reaches abstraction on the Balearic Islands, rides the waves with hard bop and even amazes billionaires with standards. Who is the secret pioneer of the spiritual revival?
Text Christoph Benkeser , Photos Christoph Schubert © Jazzman , Translation Sebastian Hinz
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Ibiza is not an anti-jazz island, on the contrary, says Muriel Grossmann. The saxophonist has been living on the Balearic Island for over 17 years — next to the sea, between lemon trees and a chicken coop, far from hectic jazz metropolises of London and New York. A place where she refines her interpretation of the spiritual jazz of the 1960s, decodes it and, as an unknown pioneer of scene greats like Shabaka Hutchings or Kamasi Washington, rewires it in post-Coltrane manner. »Large cities have their advantage, but it also depends on which phase of life you are in«, says Grossmann. Her phase of life does not stem from the speed of the urban and futuristic street canyons, but from the view of the sea, the vegetation and diversity of the island culture. »People live here who like to retreat. That shapes my work.«

Muriel Grossmann was born in Paris in 1971, grew up in Vienna and moved to Barcelona in the early 2000s. »It was great«, she says. »I played a lot, but I wanted to settle down.« In 2004 she was given the opportunity to play a summer residence at Terero Pereyra, one of Ibiza’s venues that permanently closed down since. Grossmann arrived for the summer months — and stayed. Ibiza has provided her with constant work. She could start a family. And of course there are these winters __»where you can sit at the piano or take the horn and the music just flows out.« This flow has begun the moment she arrived at the island. Grossmann meet the jazz pianist Joachim Kühn. He, who once described Ibiza as an anti-jazz island, invited her to his studio, where she ran into musicians like Christian Lillinger, Robert Landfermann and Wolfgang Reisinger — personalities who ride jazz standards like waves and reinforcing Grossmanns own visions.

»The visible is just another area of information for the audible« (Muriel Grossmann)

With »Homecoming Reunion«, Muriel Grossmann released her first album back in 2007. Since then, eight more CDs have followed on her Dreamland Records imprint without epic mambo-jambo, but almost exaggeratedly understated via Bandcamp. Only when the Estonian label RR Gems became aware of her music in 2018 and asked her to press »Golden Rule« on vinyl did the search queries skyrocket. »It’s great to work with people who have trust and a deep connection to our music to do things according to my vision and to go beyond it«, says Grossmann. And success proves her right: British magazine UK Vibe voted the record album of the year, Gilles Peterson promoted her music and eventually, people started to dig into her back catalog.

Muriel Grossmann – ElevationVinyl LP Grossmann’s work has followed the same focus since the publication of »Earth Tones« in 2015: music as abstraction, as a complex form of communication as she puts it. »Elevation«, which will be released on the renowned Jazzman Records in May, is a continuation of this, a compilation of pieces that have already been heard on __»Natural Time« and »Momentum«. »›Elevation‹ clearly shows that everything is one«, says Grossmann. The pieces of the past can be put together into new records without telling another story because they were part of the same phase. A phase that can also be traced using the cover artwork. »Sometimes I paint the paintings directly to the music. Or I choose paintings for the music.« Her children are involved as well, the view from her garden affects the mood. »The visible is just another area of information for the audible«, says Grossmann.

Muriel Grossmann – Golden RuleVinyl 2LP It is this contrast between light and dark, the visible and audible, that defines her polymeric facets, frames it and thus contextualizes it anew. Grossmann spends the mild winters in the studio and tours the island when famous people from film, sports and business spend their vacation on the island. »They want jazz«, says Grossmann, who during summer season performs five days a week in a first class hotel venue called Cipriani’s Downtown. »I remember how the owner of the Bellagios and Mirage in Las Vegas, Steve Wynn, once came up to me to ask if we could play ›Take Five‹. We could. He stood there speechless and then said to the owner what kind of killer band he had hired. The owner replied: ›I know, that’s why I have them every day all these years.‹ That’s when Steve Wynn came back the next day and booked the table right next to the band.«


You can find the Vinyl records of Muriel Grossmann in the HHV Records webshop.

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