"A new hope in German jazz" was German broadcaster mdr kultur’s verdict on Vincent Meissner's debut album "Bewegtes Feld" (2021). Deutschlandfunk went further, predicting that his band “will take off like a rocket." Downbeat (US) wrote of an "excitement” running through the album, which was produced by Meissner’s mentor Michael Wollny. The pianist was only twenty at the time, and already garlanded with prizes. Praise and an armful of awards are what they are...but at that point, because of Covid, Meissner’s young acoustic piano trio with bassist Josef Zeimetz and drummer Henri Reichmann had scarcely had any chances to perform live, to explore the richness of their bandleader’s compositions, or indeed to let this material develop properly.
Things have now definitely moved on, and the wait may even have increased the fun they can now have. You hear that on the new album: the trio has become much more closely integrated, their joy in playing is palpable. Immediately after the first recording, they tried out new pieces, tested out ideas and just went on as if following a natural continuation of what they’d done before. However, when you’re around 20, life does have a way of moving on: Josef is now studying in Basel, Henri has moved to Leipzig to continue his studies at the city’s Hochschule, where Vincent's main piano teacher is now former WDR Big Band legend Frank Chastenier. Vincent calls his two mentors Wollny and Chastenier "a great combination".
The trio has developed its interplay, and the way it approaches the pieces is much freer now. Through leaving space for more open sections and extending them, the sound and the concept have changed. The trio can access far more emotional experiences. They evidently love the more complex forms in which they now play, these structures and allow ideas to develop as they are shared around the musicians. This has resulted in a compact band sound. They can either allow things to run on and keep a certain flexibility, or they can condense and work with stricter song forms. Energy and strength are there, but there is also contemplation and the chance to leave pauses to reflect. Everything is possible now. There is variation, vivacity and a close connection between the players, and those combined strengths come to fore particularly when the trio puts it focus on conveying the melody in a song.
The album is called "Wille" (will). It has a bubbling energy and flow but also a strong sense of cohesion. What we hear is authentic and original, and it is also communicated in a way which is always flexible, fresh and agile. These three musicians know with certainty that they are capable of achieving a lot together. They are remarkably at ease with each other, and that leads to a feeling of serenity. The aim is to play catchy music, but to transcend the banal. Vincent defines the ‘will’ expressed in the title as the "development of mental ideas that one transfers into reality through into action", or as a "conscious decision to make an action.” There is a simple will to play and to find expressiveness, to portray oneself through one’s artistic work. And it is this particular imperative that gives the recording both its urgency and its persuasiveness.
“Wille” is also defined by an affinity with pop music, and that choice brings with it a large body of material to draw on, and has led directly to the decision to record new cover versions. The way the three of them take on the raunchy "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" by George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam, made famous by Whitney Houston certainly packs a surprise. They find a special subtlety in both the Beatles song "In My Life" and in the catchy tune "Young Folks" by Peter Bjorn and John. In "Things" they take Louis Cole at his word. The lyrics state that “Things may not work out how you thought / Maybe it is good, maybe it is bad / Either way the only truth we have is / Things may not work out how you thought”. And that rings completely true: there is nothing about these adaptations which is either contrived or inauthentic, and they also sit very well alongside Meissner’s own compositions. His purpose in recording the covers was anything but commercially driven; it was because the band's individual sound comes across so clearly as a result of engaging so thoroughly with the material sourced from others.
This focus and engagement is part of something bigger: what the Vincent Meissner Trio is able to do above all is to convince with its fundamental honesty and authenticity. Yes, the trio is being pro-active in determining how it wants to present its art, and also its members as individuals. "It's nice to have people listening to us," says Vincent Meissner, with the live experiences of the last few months very much in mind. He understands his pieces as a framework to be filled, as a space to be walked through as a group together. It is all about conveying impressions of the present beyond words, about evoking emotional experiences which go beyond the tangible moment in a way that is completely natural. "Wille" is an important step forward for the Vincent Meissner Trio, and it already will make listeners want more. This band is well on its way.