All About Jazz

By Marc Mayers

On Space Messengers, Austrian musician Wolfgang Schalk
proves to be an explosively inventive guitarist and a gifted,
challenging composer. Backed by an alert, vibrant rhythm
section, he digs deep into eight original compositions,
improvising with considerable intelligence, passion, and swing.

In the CD booklet, Schalk cites Pat Martino as one of his
primary influences, and indeed, the Austrian possesses a
clarion, ringing guitar sound that recalls Martino. Yet Schalk
is very much his own man. He plays with an attractive
lyricism, enabling some of his phrases to float over the
rhythm section, and one of his most intriguing strategies
is a seemingly effortless tendency to insert unexpected
chordal passages into a single-note line. To my ears, his
finest improvising comes on the rockish “Frame Up.”
Playing what sounds like an amplified acoustic guitar,
Schalk tears into the changes with relentless power and
soaring invention.

Yet, as good as these guitar solos are (and they are very,
very good), the compositions themselves are what first
catch the ear. 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.

Of course, this album's success is also rooted in the
exemplary rhythm section. This is a working band whose
empathy is clearly audible. They flow and dance through
the intricacies of Schalk's compositions, and they swing
with grace and power. Andy McKee's booming bass sound
is an asset, and drummer Ian Froman keeps things
interesting. Put simply, pianist Dave Kikoski is in excellent
form throughout. Highly recommended.


All About Jazz

By Mark F. Turner

The music on guitarist Wolfgang Schalk’s new release sounds
as if it could have been recorded decades ago, and that’s not
a bad thing. Like older guitarists such as Jim Hall and Pat
Martino and younger players such as Adam Rogers and Kurt
Rosenwinkel, Schalk clearly deserves greater recognition for
his own soulful articulation and deep skills.

Space Messengers follows 2002’s Rainbows in the Night with
(thankfully) the same band—including pianist Dave Kikoski,
bassist Andy McKee, and drummer Ian Froman. Their
communication has gotten stronger, resulting in tighter
performances. The title piece speaks volumes with a melody
that's filled with hints of melancholy and much feeling. They
literally swing into action on “Gossip” and Schalk’s hollowbody
fretboard shines on “The Bell Song,” where he explores the
possibilities with a simple theme that contains alternating
tempos and complex phrasing added by Kikoski’s classical touch.

The stirring slower compositions, such as “Anyways” and
“Peoples,” are balanced by the spirited jazz infused blues
of “Why Ypsilon” and “Hi There,” reminiscent of Wes
Montgomery and Grant Green. But the music is in no way
nostalgic and shows the jazz guitar art form can still be
vibrant without the use of modern techniques or gadgetry.
This is most evident on the closing tour de force “Frame Up,”
featuring Schalk on a nylon-string guitar where the quartet
reaches the apex of creativity and energy.



Frame Up Music (2016)


Available as CD, LP [160-G Audiophile Vinyl w/ Download Card] & Digital