Traditional Irish Music
The Celtic Diaspora Knows No Bounds
A couple of decades ago a German boy had a love affair that none could have predicted. It was German born acoustic guitarist Jens Kommnick and he fell in love with Celtic music. I know how he feels. Luckily, the affair has blossomed into a beautiful relationship, for Jens’ six-string music is absolutely sublime. His remarkable self-taught talents are the result of exploration into not only the Celtic genre, but also classical, jazz and folk music. He incorporates all these genres and more on this fourteen-track collection. I have to admit his fingerstyle guitar is unique in the world of Celtic music, but oh so welcome. Kommnick has contributed to scores of other albums and he has won the, get ready for it…The All Ireland Champion in the soloist and accompanist categories. Once you hear his music, you will know why. His instrument of choice is an exquisite guitar with a redwood top made by Irish luthier George Lowden, hence the title of the album, Redwood. This is not a solo guitar album and Jens plays all the instruments. Let’s hear about the music.
The first cut, Ann Kathrins Walzer is a homage to a character in a detective novel. Ann Kathrin listens to Jens Kommnick music as a calmative and Jens could not help but write a song for her. The tune is lively, the melody intricate and the mood cozy, if you know what I mean.
Bach’s Second Brandenburg Concerto is the theme for the third song on the album and Jens handles the classical refrain with ease. He substitutes acoustic resources for more traditional instruments on this one and the results are delightful. I have to admit with its multifarious mandolin lead, it put me in mind of the wonderful works of the Penguin Café Orchestra. The composition is a celebration for any era.
Kukyna Horo or The Kitchen Dance is based on a Bulgarian Folk Dance and it is a bouncy bit of a tune. It sounded more like a reel to me with its lively melody that does not lack for energy. It features Jens remarkable fingering that dances on the frets like there is no tomorrow. After a listen, you are breathless and happy for it.
One of the tunes that captured my heart, for I live in a home made completely out of wood, is called Cedar House. It is an animated waltz created with piano, low whistle, and guitar. I am delighted with my cabin and every day I look at the walls made of heartwood pine and I see creatures and stories in every knot and striation in every plank. I feel the warmth of the golden hued wood and it is a comfort. Jens music amplifies that feeling for me in a wonderful way.
Jens once more visits the Baroque period with his splendid piece called Chorea Polonia/Bergette San Roch. It is kind of surprising to be listening to Celtic spiced waltzes and European rondos then unexpectedly, a tune from the Renaissance come forth. At first, like the concerto earlier, I wondered how it all fit together and then I realized that the music created different moods and suddenly, the chronology was unimportant.
Furioso Der Alten Dame or Furioso of the Old Lady is a sprightly piece that highlights Kommnick’s masterful fretwork on a solo exhibition. The tunes is sometimes jazzy, sometimes bluesy, but always energetic.
Silky Moon is the last tune on Redwood and I wanted it to go on forever. The solo guitar ballad was pure and melodic. The music is soft, sweet, and memorable and defines the genre of fingerstyle guitar for me. I imagined the moon on high on this October night, bright and silver as it bathed the land in blueish shadows. It was a light reflected in soft, brown eyes as time stood still for more than a heartbeat. Play on.
If anything, Jens Kommnick is a masterful mood maker. On Redwood, I was treated to many different styles and different time periods and the transitions were seamless and fantastic. For this German, The roots of classical history just seem to mesh well with the muse of the Emerald Isle. The results are consistently beguiling and entertaining. Highly recommended.
Rating: Very Good
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