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Endangered 09:02
Crosswinds 09:56


Christoph Irniger and a big band? Actually, one associates the saxophonist more with more manageable formats. As seen in bands such as Pilgrim, Cowboys from Hell, Noir, Counterpoints or the Christoph Irniger Trio, he prefers smaller formations, from trio to quintet, in which he brings out every voice, intention and interaction in full balance. All the more surprising now is the compactness and density he achieves in his orchestral debut, The Music of Pilgrim. The title may be confusing at first, because – although it is music by and for Pilgrim – it is not a Pilgrim album. But more about that later.

This topic, a big band, is not entirely new for the Swiss musician because after all he was a member of the Lucerne Jazz Orchestra from 2007 to 2014. So he knows what he's doing and yet, together with the Swiss Jazz Orchestra, he's entering new territory. Indeed, he jumps from the ten-meter board into the big band pool, both fresh and impartial, which does the album good. As with so many contemporary productions, the pandemic was the catalyst for something new. But unlike all those artists who tackled solo projects in the seclusion of their living room studios, Irniger plunged headlong into the very big spectacle.

This pleasure in playing inevitably translates into a pleasure in listening. One feels the power of a colossus whose cauldron is heated to bursting point with great melodies. The pressure of the unconditional desire to tell stories keeps the steam engine running. Still, you can't listen as fast as the ideas flow.

The poetry of the incalculable, therefore, leaps out of every single note of this album.

In the end, Irniger treats the big band like a large instrument. The recording was made live in a relatively small room, and this physical compactness is palpable. The individual voices create a sound plasma in which the separate instrument hardly plays a role; in the live mix, almost every instrument could be heard through every other microphone. It was like an avalanche that, once it had started rolling, could no longer be stopped. And although this live recording was not intended for release, Irniger felt like a magician when listening to the results. The energy once ignited left him no choice but to share this sound with the rest of the world.

Christoph Irniger and a big band? Sure, what else! Forget very quickly everything you have heard and think you know about big bands. With subtle full power, the master of small formations completely reinvents big band jazz.


released October 21, 2022


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Christoph Irniger Zürich, Switzerland

Swiss saxophonist, composer and bandleader. In recent years Irniger has made a name for himself in a range of line-ups, playing jazz, improvised music, rock and related musical styles.

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