SYNERGY. The Art of the Duo
JAZZ CATS OF THE FUTURE Volume 1
An Album Series Edition by ORF Ö1, JAM MUSIC LAB Private University and QUINTON RECORDS.
Among the most intimate relationships in jazz. An opportunity to express, reveal, exchange. Alan Bartuš and Robert Unterköfler defy the conventional stereotypes surrounding budding young musicians. Each manifests a growing maturity well beyond his years. Each glows with determination and focus.
Their brightness in the constellation of rising stars is surely a testament to their talents, but equally to the power of a nurturing environment. Vienna’s JAM MUSIC LAB University is such a place. Inspired by the progressive possibilities at JAM, each musician earned a scholarship and an advanced program of study.
SYNERGY represents the culmination of the school’s awards package, bestowed to them as winners of JAM’s rigorous jazz competition, spearheaded in partnership with Austrian broad- casters, Ö1 radio. All future scholarships will include this career lift – a studio recording.
Pianist Alan and saxophonist Robert (switching between tenor and soprano) are tradi- tionalists whose ears are tuned to an evolving musical soundscape. One hears in them a probing intensity, the desire to refine an identifying sound. The songs featured here are originals that speak to jazz’s complex history.
Theirs is an artful pas de deux, made rich through elements of swing, bebop and modern jazz. They wear their influences (and heroes) proudly. From the Monkish romp of “Blues 4” to the Parkeresque flight of “Swinging Bird.” Contrast the exuberance of these per- formances against the introspection of „But That’s Life” or “Who Knew?” (The song titles themselves are telling.) Mood adjustments through music.
As if to demonstrate the organic fullness of their thoughts, consider how Alan’s bass lines in “Walking Mystery” are a loping skeleton, left hand pacing, then overruled by the right. Robert is inspired to answer, and together they breathe (though their „walking mystery“ is never quite solved). In like manner, the circles they draw inside “Circles” demonstrate the interlocking responsibility of discovery.
The sum effect of SYNERGY is an affirmation that jazz and jazz education are in good hands. Alan Bartuš and Robert Unterköfler are exemplars within a jazz continuum that has expanded by renewal, seeded by an educational institute tasked with cultivating creators.
Their transformative efforts bring honor to all.
New York City, March 2023
Jeff Levenson is a Grammy-recognized producer
educator, executive and writer.
Robert Unterköfler is an Austrian saxophonist, composer and educator, born in Villach, Austria in 1992. He doubles on clarinet, flute and electronic wind instruments. He began his jazz studies at the Klagenfurt Conservatory, and holds a bachelor‘s degree from the Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna. He also studied in Groningen and Rotterdam, before earning the 2018 Ö1 Jazz Scholarship from Vienna’s JAM MUSIC LAB University. His years there yielded a Master‘s degree in Music Education.
Robert has enjoyed working with a host of winning collaborators – including, Valentin Duit, Christopher Pawluk, Robin Gadermaier, Tobias Meissl, David Dornig, Michael Moore, Werner Feldgrill, Amina Bouroyen, Erik Asatrian and the Christian Muthspiel Orjazztra. His most recent projects are the solo “Sidrat,” and a partnership with Nina Feld- grill titled, “River.”
Alan Bartuš was born in Lučenec, Slovakia, on February 22, 2001. He comes from a family of musicians. He and his family moved to Austria in 2012. In 2017 he became the winner of the Jazz Start Up competition, and was recognized as the New Face of
the Slovak Jazz Competition. In 2018 he began his studies at the
Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna with Professor Oliver Kent. In addition to studying jazz and classical piano, Alan was dedicated to improvisation and composition. In 2020 he was the winner of the solo piano competition, Excellence Piano Awards, along with a Grand Prix Majestic Excellence Award and Piano Solo Professional Gold Award.
That same year he earned top honors at the prestigious Austrian Ö1 Jazz Scholarship, and started his Master studies
at JAM MUSIC LAB Private University, finding time to tour and record with the saxophonists Jerry Bergonzi and Tim Armacost. In 2023 Alan became the winner of the Austrian Artedea competition with his duo project, the Bartuš & Widauer Experiment. In that same year, he began studies at the renowned Manhattan School of Music.
ABOUT THE MUSIC
The life experience and philosophy that I follow inspires my music. My compositions reflect real life situations. The music I compose expresses my feelings. I want to spread love and positive energy. My music reflects that – love for my family, in particular, my late grandmother, my parents, and the love of my life, Jadranka. The messages in my music are tolerance, mutual understanding, and peaceful coexistence. Through music, I want to show that it is possible to understand, respect and tolerate each other. I feel that I was born to make music and to spread joy by playing it. I am a missionary with music in my heart.
I wrote Chances when I had to make very important decisions and consider plans in life. This composition deeply reflects all my passion for music and love.
Circles was written originally for my first solo piano album called “Solology,” which has a contemporary character. This composition consists of 4 chords that are repeated and varied in different color spaces.
A Walking Mystery
In this tune we are walking into the unknown – unexpected moments.
This was my first composition and I dedicated it to one of the most important musicians of all time: Charlie Parker.
A free improvisation with the feeling of intuitive sense.
For me, making music is a way to express feelings and messages I don‘t find words for. In some cases, even subconscious thoughts and unfamiliar moods might appear from deep within.
In this way music has a therapeutical purpose, which provides a sanctuary. On this album, I
try to play with an energetic but always round and clear sound. My aim is to create a bright, warm environment. For me, beauty and clarity are the most worthwhile qualities to reach for in music.
The Pursuit of Attention
A free improvisation. We play with rhythmical accents and sounds. It is a hard-edged and restless piece that does not leave any space for questions and provides rather dark and anxious moments in the album.
In this improvisation, we start by interchanging two separate solo parts that meet in a duo exchange. We find common ground by ending in an eerie way that provides contrast to the other improvisations on this album.
This is a minor blues with slightly altered, and rhythmically displaced, changes. The melody is inspired by one of my favorite saxophonists, Eddie Harris.
This tune is dedicated to a very special person. It begins in a soft and calm mood, promoting an idea of peace. It then transitions to a fast, Latin-based groove, over which we maintain the intro’s relaxed feeling.
This is one of my recent tunes, in which the beginning of the form is vague. It‘s designed to create a warm and peaceful atmosphere in which you can get lost in the moment without any distractions.
But That’s Life, I Suppose
This is another ballad of mine. It provides a very simple and consonant environment that is sometimes interrupted by more ambiguous moments and one change of direction near the end of the tune.
This tune uses a scale that is built through the combination of three triads. There are two equally important melodies happening simultaneously. The solo-part continues in the style of the head, and outlines the scale that is the foundation of the tune. The bridge provides a short calm island to rest.
THE JAZZ SCHOLARSHIP
Radio Ö1, the public culture radio channel of ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation), JAM MUSIC LAB Private University Vienna and QUINTON RECORDS are supporting the young and promising generation of Austrian jazz musicians in their quest for more visibility and audibility. The Ö1 Jazzstipendium (Ö1 jazz scholarship) is intended to give one of their representatives an important impulse for a perhaps even international career.
Every year, the Ö1 Jazzstipendium supports an outstanding young artist in contemporary jazz and offers a full scholarship at the JAM MUSIC LAB Private University.
As the first winner, the scholarship certificate was presented to the Carinthian saxophonist Robert Unterköfler on April 30, 2018 – the Ö1 Jazz Day as well as International Jazz Day, decla- red by UNESCO. In 2019, the scholarship went to Upper Austrian drummer Lukas Aichinger.
In 2020 it was the violinist Constanze Friedel, who comes from Ilmenau in the German state of Thuringia. As the second woman, the 2021 winner was saxophone player and singer Madeleine Kaindl. 21-year-old pianist Alan Bartuš was the fifth winner of the scholarship in 2022.
Andreas Felber, Head of Jazz, Radio Ö1 / ORF
Marcus Ratka, Head of JAM Music Lab Private University, Vienna)
Andreas Rathammer, producer of Quinton Records
Recorded on February 4 & 5, 2023 at WaveGarden Studios, Austria Recorded by Andreas Rathammer
Mixed & Mastered by Andreas Rathammer at The Q-Room Vienna
Photos by Maximilian Langer, HOB i RAUM (Robert Unterköfler) & Antonio Porcar Cano, František Gažík (Alan Bartus) Key Visual “Jazz” © Florian Jungwirth/Dynamowien
Graphic Design by Katharina Kerstan
A Co-production with Radio Ö1 and JAM MUSIC LAB Private University.