It is hard to believe it as one listens to this album: pianist Vincent Meissner is just twenty years old. The drummer in the trio, incidentally, is even younger. Recognition for this major talent has started to grow, however, and the prizes are rolling in. Meißner has so far won six: the Bechstein Piano Competition, the Concert Prize of the Jazzopen Stuttgart, the Förderpreis of the German Jazz Union, the Jazzhaus Competition Freiburg and the Central German Jazz Prize. And he is also already showing quite some capacity to make smart decisions and follow them through. When he was chosen as to represent Saxony in the prestigious “Jugend jazzt” event in 2019, he opted to take a new approach to presenting his music. Rather than building pieces out of fragments or sketches, as he had done until then, he created a suite of connected pieces. This mature quality, the desire to present a coherent programme is also a hallmark of his debut album "Bewegtes Feld".
For the past year and a half, Vincent has been studying at the Leipzig Hochschule, where Michael Wollny is among his teachers. So, when Wollny heard that Meissner had been offered the opportunity to make a recording at Bauer Studios in Ludwigsburg, he offered to be involved. As Wollny explains: "I saw several good things coming together here. A highly talented young pianist and composer with his own genuine 'working band' ...being given the opportunity to record the material they were creating...under perfect conditions in a top studio. Since I was familiar with the development of his compositions and ideas from supervising his studies anyway, it seemed only logical to take a role in the recording and to go into the studio with the trio as producer."
Vincent grew up in a small village near Dresden. Essentially, the story starts with what he found lurking on the shelves of a chain-store in the nearby university town of Freiberg. The young Vincent – at that point he was not playing the piano yet – found a selection of jazz CDs. Most of the stock was from the two renowned German labels which are both identified by having three letters in their names. Here was music to discover, to make his own, to become increasingly deeply involved with – to the point where what started as a passion became a life-goal. At sixteen, he went off to Dresden to the Landesgymnasium für Musik. It was there that he met drummer Henri Reichmann, and their friendship flourished: both of them were finding music to animate and inspire them. And so they listened, they practised, they sparked off each other, fanning the flames of their enthusiasm by continuing to make new discoveries: Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck and Bud Powell were followed by Paul Bley, Monk, Craig Taborn, Vijay Iyer. And there were German musicians too: Pablo Held, Joachim Kühn and Michael Wollny. Making the journey brings its own rewards. Vincent has remained a seeker and discoverer, immersing himself in the piano music of our time.
All of this shines through on his CD, which already brings this early phase of his career full circle. And how! You don't hear slavish imitation here, this is an astonishingly balanced statement of intent from a highly original talent. He is fully aware of the foundations that his predecessors have left him, and is able to use them as the jumping-off point into his own expressive world. Since forming his piano trio with double bassist Josef Zeimetz at the beginning of 2020, they have – to put it mildly – not had the best of circumstances to deal with. In fact, Corona has meant that they have only performed one live gig. "We are a 100% studio band," says Vincent ironically, with a big smile. The three players are based in Leipzig, Dresden and Amsterdam, but they were able to get together for intensive weeks of rehearsal together. And the result of that work is worth listening to – here is a young trio who are clearly ready to bring their freshly created music out of the studio and rehearsal room and onto the stages of clubs.
Vincent and his fellow musicians are concerned above all to be honest and authentic in what they do. Indeed, that is something they see as far more important than being revolutionary firebrands. These are musicians with a clear sense of form and structure, sometimes finding the humorous and the euphoric, at others the melancholy and the poetry of ballads. At any event, each of them has many different sides to him as a musician, and together they find surprises and all kinds of fascinating and many-hued timbres as they develop Vincent's compositions through playing them. They experiment with complex shapes and rhythms, and yet we hear their joy in playing together. There is also a remarkable sense for melodies that are unusual and memorable. Vincent loves metaphors, and uses one to describe the way they discover as they play: "When we play, each time it is as if we’re walking across an orchard. finding different fruit to pick." That idea captures the spirit of the CD title "Bewegtes Feld". The field also perhaps being a demarcated area within which Vincent, Henri and Josef can move. There is exploration going on here, and connections and reconnections to be found as they shake up the material and put it back together in different permutations. There is always a big picture, but the listener is also drawn in to uncover the detail, to follow the music’s many twists and turns. This is spontaneous music, and yet there is nothing random about it. Ideas are developed, refined and deepened. Vincent Meißner describes this with another image:"My compositions are as if we had a shelf in the room, and everyone puts things onto it." That might sound like a long process, but they always do get very quickly to the point. And that is the raison d’etre of these three musicians who have come together to form a trio of equals. Another metaphor: "We are like a young wine which is now maturing. It's only the second year after the grapes have been harvested!"
Robust...refined...subtle...sparkling! This is Young, even very young, German Jazz at its best and most life-affirming.