Stefan Oberthaler expands jazz's creative scope on visionary new album
(Published: August 02, 2011)
August 1, 2011 (Vienna, Austria) Written by Robert Sutton. His nickname, Keyminator, has the ominous ring of a science-fiction villain, but there is nothing apocalyptic about Stefan Oberthaler's cross-pollination of lounge music, electronica, and funk.
On his latest album Journey Man, Oberthaler comes across as a visionary; his futurist take on jazz reflects progressive European sensibilities but it is much more soulful and heartfelt than most genre-bending experiments.
Where Oberthaler succeeds and others fail is his sense of melody. Too many contemporary jazz acts become so infatuated with the possibilities of sound, especially through synthesized means, that what is left is a sparkling heart of stone. Not so with Oberthaler. On "Move," Oberthaler's keyboards generate pulsating dance rhythms that are further intensified by funky riffs; R&B-styled guest vocals from Mariko Kiyose inject it with pop accessibility. "Move" broadens the definition of jazz; although borrowing elements from other styles, it is primarily rooted in jazz albeit with modern touches that can attract a younger crowd.
The name of the album seems to reflect Oberthaler's hard-earned résumé, a background that includes working as a sideman for numerous artists. But it can also be interpreted as summarizing his thirst for adventure; after all, music can be a journey itself. Sure enough, the throbbing synths of "Fly5" find Oberthaler reaching into the stars for an otherworldly jaunt. The title track brims with thick atmospherics, stomping beats, and an icy spoken-word performance from Forss.
Although Oberthaler's genre of choice - Nu Jazz - is nothing new anymore, it hasn't risen from the underground yet, at least in America. And Oberthaler does it better than the majority of his peers, turning an obscure, often frustratingly detached and unorganized offshoot into a collection of sterling musicianship and rock-solid hooks.
(To hear samples of Stefan Oberthaler's Journey Man, visit http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/stefanoberthaler).
More Information: http://www.stefanoberthaler.com