Christoph Irniger: Pilgrim


Raffaele Bossard, Stefan Aeby, Christoph Irniger, Michi Stulz, and Dave Gisler photo by Gian Marco Castelberg.

Saturday, August 10, 8pm
The Chapel Performance Space
4649 Sunnyside Ave N

It’s a special opportunity when we in the Pacific Northwest get to take in the sounds from the vibrant European jazz scenes. Such an opportunity takes place on August 10, when tenor saxophonist and composer Christoph Irniger presents his Swiss quintet Pilgrim.

Irniger, age 39, is one of the stellar voices of his generation. His quintet carries a New York sensibility within a distinctly European sound. Having immersed himself in the New York scene, Irniger has led collaborations with Nasheet Waits, Kris Davis, Michael Bates, and Ohad Talmor.

Irniger’s Pilgrim will be visiting the West Coast this summer on the occasion of its third record, Crosswinds (Intakt Records), released in January of this year. The words “pilgrim” and “crosswinds,” here conjoined, evoke qualities of movement, transience, and the mystery of a final destination. They also connote encounters, whether they are of people of different regions sharing their respective cultures, or the often confounding and overlapping trajectories one discovers in their individual life journey.

With Crosswinds, Pilgrim explores these ideas of direction as a single unit, and the trust and musicianship of the individual players allows them to move together seamlessly through unknown sonic areas and compositions that conjure feelings of mystery and spacelessness in our digital age.

Irniger brings a strong, warm tone and a deft capacity for leading the ensemble through their collective improvisations with strong, spacious melodies. The rest of Pilgrim is Dave Gisler on electric guitar, Stefan Aeby on piano, Raffaele Bossard on bass, and Michi Stulz on drums. Together, they collectively craft majestic harmonic and rhythmic landscapes where the timbral qualities of each instrument slip into each other. Ranging stylistically from open, pulse-free playing to heavy grooves that verge on rock, the rhythm section explores a range of densities that swell organically in a performance. Irniger leaves ample space for his band to lock in fantastic melodic and rhythmic counterpoints, and then enters with the role of a compass in a journey. Regardless of the feel, all of the music invites the listener into a whirlwind of collective movement.

The concept of pilgrimage holds significance for Irniger both in relation to his band and music, as well as to his personal life. In an interview with Cadence Magazine, Irniger states that his creative agenda is one of following a distinct, intentional life path, and making an evocative artistic statement through it: “For me, it doesn’t work to be a jack of all trades, I want to try to really focus on something specific that I might really develop a message. That’s what I’m looking for. [My path] definitely lies in music and it lies somewhere between composition and improvisation.”

This dual application arrives at one of the core principles of jazz, namely the celebration of individual expression within the collective process of making music. When musicians take this ethic beyond the bandstand and apply it to their lives, it in turn leads to a more genuine musical expression and true experiences of togetherness through music. Join Irniger and Pilgrim as the band flies, pioneering, in new directions.

–Carlos Snaider

$15 adults, $13 Earshot members & seniors, $10 students & military. Available at earshot.org and at the door.


Posted on

July 26, 2019