Hailed by critics in the US and Europe as “one of the best jazz guitarists”, Wolfgang Schalk delivers hard swinging and emotive compositions in the vein of the patriarchal jazz guitarist lineage while highlighting his membership in the elite club of today’s creative voices. A guitarist with impeccable chops, Schalk's musicianship is illuminated on both electric and nylon-string guitar. Recalling the sounds of esteemed fret-board masters Wes Montgomery, George Benson, Pat Martino and Pat Metheny, Schalk expands on the tradition by playing dynamic music expressing thoughtfulness and original artistic abilities as one of today's authentic jazz guitarists.
Wolfgang Schalk's new release Word of Ear further showcases his talent as a consummate guitarist, playing with deep soulfulness and feeling. With the follow up to his critically acclaimed release Wanted (Frame Up Music 2008) the bi-coastal (NY/LA) jazz guitarist presents new music with an exciting band. Yet, in contrast to the familiar term "word of mouth", it is the music that speaks with its unique yet familiar language. This embodies the essence of Word of Ear as Schalk reaffirms that "jazz is one of the deepest art-forms”. These concepts are fully realized within the recording's nine tracks.
The main characteristics of Wolfgang Schalk's music is his drive to formal control on one hand and his melodic talent and skills as a composer on the other. His compositions are pleasantly complex, rich in contrasts, nevertheless resolutely intended in a narrative cantability that creates fertile room for expression with his musicians.
AllAboutJazz writes: “Schalk creates impressive structures for improvisation, and he fits each and every structure with a hip, catchy melody. If other musicians pick up on these tunes, every single one of them has the potential to become a jazz standard.”
Leading his own bands, Schalk has recorded six albums as a leader with all original music. His previous recordings received enthusiastic praise from journalists, musical peers and fans alike. In 2005 Wolfgang Schalk signed a recording deal with Universal Music and in 2008 Schalk founded his own record label Frame Up Music which was primarily launched as an outlet for producing music on his own terms.
Wolfgang Schalk has worked with an impressive lineup of notable musicians, including 11-time Grammy award-winning Michael Brecker, Dave Kikoski, Andy McKee, Ian Froman, Rick Margitza, Dave Carpenter, Marvin “Smitty” Smith, Geoffrey Keezer and John Beasley to name a few. Noted jazz writer Hank Bordowitz wrote about Wolfgang's NY dedut, "Michael Brecker delivered some of his finest blowing cutting loose on tracks like the album's title cut." Jazz.com writes: "The Second Third Man is indicative of the whole album. It is improvised music of originality and high performance. Schalk and Brecker are perfect foils as they tackle a complicated and relentless head arrangement...This is a high-caliber chops fest in the best tradition of the jazz-rock idiom."
Wolfgang Schalk traveled a typically uncompromising path from the cities of Graz and Vienna Austria to New York. Schalk further developed his style audibly in the cosmopolitan urban pulse of New York City and succeeded in establishing himself in its stimulating yet hard-to-survive environment. Schalk most recently lives in Los Angeles and swings between the coasts.
From an artistic family, Schalk started straddling visual art and music early in his childhood. When he was six years old, he built a drum set out of stuff he found around his home and jammed with his brother in his parent's stable. At the age of 15, Schalk switched from playing the accordion to classical guitar. He got into jazz in art school. Schalk's story is not the typical “I started listening to my parents' jazz records” tale. “I brought jazz into our house,” he remembers. “I grew up in a village where people did not get jazz at the time.”
After a year of art school in Graz, Schalk realized he wanted to make music more than his desire to create visual art, so he dropped out of school to pursue a career in music. He studied jazz guitar with Franz Posch in Graz, who turned him on to guitarist Harry Pepl. Schalk says, “A lot of what I listened to at that time was the modern stuff. Wes Montgomery is still my hero. I see him as the father of contemporary jazz guitar.”
Schalk moved to Vienna from Graz in 1987, where he pursued studio work to perform with a wide variety of bands. Not content to play other people's music, Schalk began to compose as soon as he picked up his guitar and quickly developed his own voice. In 1992, he formed his own bands with musicians the likes of Wolfgang Puschnig, Harry Sokal, Bumi Fian, Uli Rennert, Werner Feldgrill, Thomas Kugi, Paul Urbanek, Florian Bramboeck, Peter Herbert and many others. Schalk's debut album, "The Be Hop Hip Bop," was released in 1993 for the Austrian BMG distributed label West East Music.
Schalk recognizes that he is still a work in progress, and continues to seek the edge of the envelope, the area that just itches to be pushed. Mostly, though, he wants to make his own music on his own terms. “I don't know if there's anything really unique anymore, but I want to develop my language.”
Wolfgang Schalk endorses handmade Strings by Thomastik-Infeld.