“Through the invitation of Robert Trunz to join a session in Johannesburg, I became friends with some very talented musicians with whom I spent 3 weeks of working and recording.The voices of Busi Mhlongo and Lungiswa Plaatjies opened new jorizons to me and they ended up writing lyrics to my music. This wonderful experience made me forget my initial plans and i din’t want to hide it from my listeners” – Max Laesser
Between features South African artists Busi Mhlongo, Lungiswa Plaatjies, Pops Mohamed, Mabi Gabriel Thobejane, Marilyn Mokwe, Phumzil Mtuli, Beanlah Hashe, Nomfundo Mayekiso, Michael Ludonga and Amampondo singers. other artist on the album are walter Keiser, Jessica Lauren, Philippe Kueng, Emmanuel Sejourne, Steve Arguelles, Heiri Kaenzig, Stuart Hall, Daniel Almada, Reto von Salis, Christoph Stiefel, Philippe GeissIke Leo, Corin Curchellas, Hank Shizzoe and the leader Max Laesser. Between came out in 1997 an it is full of surprises; the result of both a new beginning and a breakthrough. With rhythmic eloquence, it documents the milestones of a musical- and above all a personal process of growth with power and verve. The first fruit of this development is his collaboration with a group of female singers and musicians from South Africa. Over a decade and four albums with his Ark project, Max Laesser developed a uniquely luscious sound. Now, with Little Ark, Laesser stripped down his sound to affect the listener in a more direct, primordial way. “I used to place the music in the foreground, so I could hide behind it,” Laesser confesses. “That concept no longer works.”
Liberated from the constraints placed upon him by an outworn concept, an untrammeled joy in playing breaks through. “I have tried to grasp the essence of immediate experience,” says Max. So the numbers recorded with the band are now played together with the live solos. “We decided to keep all the mistakes. Of course there was great temptation to play around with the individual numbers, but then much of the intensity of the recordings would have been lost.” The key to the album is the title song, ‘Between’. It links the harmonious melodies of earlier days with Laesser’s newly discovered spontaneity. “Bhoyi” is intense, its tension draw from the opposition between a typical, lyrical Lässer arrangement and Busi Mhlongo’s singing and earthy mbira textures.’Kumnand’i is an enchanting song that acquires its peculiar resonance from the clear voice of South African singer, Lungiswa Plaatjies, and the penetrating sound of the choir. Home is a piece created at the end of 1995 in South Africa, bin which a kora, played by Pops Mohamed, can be heard for the first time in Max’s music: “The idea came to me in a few seconds; it is a very simple melody that gave me the feeling of being back where I really feel at home.”
Although ‘Between’ is an album that heralds the beginning of a new musical development, Laesser never loses his orientation: “I feel quite clearly that I am in the middle of this process. I’ve abandoned a structure that gave me a strong sense of security for many years. I must admit the new territory that I’ve entered makes me apprehensive, but optimism has definitely been the dominant note in my experience during the recording, especially in South Africa.”
Max Laesser has not broken completely with his past, but has remained true to his greatest strength: his music evokes an atmosphere that never leaves one unmoved.
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