The Glasgow String Quartet:
William Chandler - violin
Jacqueline Speirs - violin
Ian Budd - viola
Betsy Taylor - cello
Alina Bzhezhinska - harp
Michael Janisch - double bass
Alyn Cosker - drums
Recorded & Mixed at Castlesound Studios, Scotland by Stuart Hamilton
Mastered by Tyler McDiarmid, NYC
Produced by Konrad Wiszniewski and Euan Stevenson
Executive Producer - Michael Janisch
released November 5, 2012
ABOUT THE ALBUM
A Scottish Album of the Year Award Nominee
Glasgow-based saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski joins forces with fellow Scottish compatriot, pianist & arranger Euan Stevenson in launching their genre-bending adventure New Focus on Whirlwind Recordings. Featuring an amalgamation of classical string quartet meets jazz quartet plus harp, New Focus showcases a cinematic soundscape of through-composed melodies meeting cutting edge improvisation, drawing upon influences from across the musical spectrum.
This nine-piece ensemble features The Glasgow String Quartet (comprising some of the finest virtuosos from The Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and Scotland's leading string quartet), alongside Stevenson on piano fronting the first call drum and bass team of Alyn Cosker (drums) and Michael Janisch (bass), Wiszniewski at the helm on saxophones and Alina Bzhezhinska on harp.
Stevenson's tight knit arrangements offer concise, pleasing trajectories, preserving the original sentiment of each composition, enriching them with ever changing soundscapes of strings and harp. Wiszniewski's tone tells parables of Polish ancestry while the arranger's own crystalline piano laments for pit closures in a northern mining town. A powerhouse rhythm team provides a counterfoil, never allowing the music to become sentimental.
This is music at its resourceful best; borrowing the harmonies and sonorities of the classical world, the tone poetry of Scottish Folk, the directness of pop and all mixed with the bustling edginess of jazz rhythms and improvisation. Duke Ellington famously quipped that there were only two categories of music - good and bad. New Focus most definitely belongs to the former.
"Outstanding original compositions by Wiszniewski and Stevenson. Wiszniewski brings world-class fire and spontaneous creativity." 5 Stars, The Herald.
"The most memorable concert of the 2011 Edinburgh International Jazz Festival. A real triumph." Jazzwise
Nominated for the Scottish Album of the Year Award
Top 50 Albums of the Year (All Genres) - The Herald
An Album of the Year - The Jazz Breakfast
"The 10 compositions here fuse together beautifully, offering a cinematic, classical and jazz experience; it's beautifully realized, skillfully composed and executed to perfection by all concerned."
★★★★★ Jazz Journal
"Here is one of the freshest sounding jazz releases to come out of the UK in the past few years."
★★★★ UK Vibe
"An outstanding CD...remarkable music."
"The result is a triumph, allowing the jazz and classical units to speak to one another with an ease and fluency rarely found in Third Stream recordings. It's a fine album that deserves a wide audience."
“There’s something truly special going on in the musical minds of saxophonist Konrad Wiszniewski and arranger, composer and pianist, Euan Stevenson...Original music that exists virtually in a world of its own...What’s so thrilling about listening to this nonet is the way all the parts move and work together, creating a melodic, harmonic and rhythmical swell that’s aesthetically pleasing and then some but also, in essence, just plain damned heart-lifting."
★★★★★ The Herald of Scotland
"New Focus is a great advertisement for the Scottish jazz scene. Wiszniewski and Stevenson are talented composers who, together with their fellow players, meld inspirations from classic jazz and Scotland’s own musical heritage to create exciting and innovative music.”
All About Jazz
“Wiszniewski has a ravishingly beautiful tone and Stevenson’s scores for string quartet, harp and rhythm section amount to much more than mere accompaniment. Combining jazz and classical idioms is a tricky business, but this succeeds splendidly.”
★★★★ The Observer
"A cinematic sense of drama, and the synthesis between jazz quartet and string quartet is artfully achieved."
★★★★ The Irish Times
"New Focus is lush, modern and brilliantly accessible...one of the most beautifully conceived and executed projects in Scottish Jazz."
BBC Radio Scotland
“Music which changes the way one sees the world!”
The Jazz Breakfast
"An excellent new album."
"Here's proof from Scotland that the quest for the thinking person's fusion still offers no end of possibilities...Wiszniewski and Stevenson have sculpted a clutch of concise, hauntingly original pieces."
The Sunday Times
"This is perfect festival fare: rich arrangements, memorable themes, fine playing and a unique mix of jazz, classical and folk...The CD is beautifully-recorded."
"A fine album, and one of the highlights of 2012"
Bird is the Worm (Blog Site)
"Stevenson’s intelligent and skilfully crafted arrangements and orchestrations go beyond a simple amalgam of jazz and classical music, creating instead a genuinely organic blend that is a constant pleasure. Wiszniewski’s sensuous saxophone shines on every tune and the rhythm section of Michael Janisch and Alyn Cosker are alive to each textural and dynamic nuance."
★★★★ The Scotsman
"The inspiration is sax legend Stan Getz's famous 1961 album Focus, and the comparably tender-toned Wiszniewski and gracefully grooving Stevenson have written a set of appropriately lyrical originals, with the band likewise augmented by strings ensemble and harp."
"New Focus is very accessible and melodic, and the tunes are so much stronger than you’ll hear around."
"The most memorable concert of the 2011 Edinburgh International Jazz Festival...a real triumph."
"Stevenson confirms himself as a composer and arranger of great style, as well as a pianist with an elegant, coolly considered improviser's touch, and while Wiszniewski's saxophone talents have been conspicuous for some time, his playing here, always inventive, always soulfully communicative, puts him firmly in the international class."
★★★★★ The Herald of Scotland