Ken Voss, The Voodoo Child
Their music pays homage to the dead – literally. Flugelhornist Michaela Rabitsch and guitarist Robert Pawlik first met in a cemetery in Vienna, Austria. They were hired to perform at a funeral, asked to play two of the deceased favorite songs in a classic jazz style.
That chance meeting lead to years of bookings. Their musical bonding eventually lead to a romantic relationship. Ironic that the meeting place that brought the duo together as today they are married (although Michaela maintains her maiden name).
The two both emerged from the scholarly studies of their instruments in Austria, with a history of performances with various classical and jazz entourages.
Their initial meeting some eight years ago lead to Rabitsch and Pawlik forming a jazz quartet.
A unique musical bonding, Rabitsch highlights Pawlik’s acoustic guitar work with he trumpet and flugelhorn stylings and vocal intonations.
“We constantly developed and the duo came to be an important alternative to our jazz quartet.
By and by we developed our sound and a special repertoire, and the duo started to increasingly contrast with the quartet.”
Pawlik adds, “As the repertoire had to change each time, we were forced to deal intensively with the art of playing duos. We developed constantly and the duo came to be an important alternative to our jazz quartet. It was usually booked, when the transparent sound of the duo was asked for, when the available space was too small or when the acoustic circumstances were too difficult for a whole band, or - much more mundane - when there was not enough money for four. By and by we developed our sound and a special repertoire, and the duo started to contrast with the quartet increasingly. It had developed into an independent formation and it was time to use a name that differed from the quartet’s. At the beginning of our co-operation we had decided to use ‘two of a kind’ for all our shared musical projects, but in the meantime the name was so connected with our quartet, with which we worked regularly since 1998, that we decided to use our civil names for the duo.
This was the first time for us to examine the interpretation of the jazz styles of the 1920's and early 1930's in a profound way,” comments Pawlik. Until that time we were geared to the style of musicians like Miles Davis, Wes Montgomery, Chet Baker, Dizzy Gillespie, George Benson, Freddie Hubbard, Pat Metheny, Frank Zappa or bands like Joe Zawinul's Weather Report or Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters.”
Sandwiched between a half dozen original compositions, they call on material from American composers – Bill Withers (“Just The Two Of Us”), Leon Russell (“This Masquerade”), Cindy Lauper (“Time After Time”) and Jimi Hendrix (“Little Wing”) – to complete their set list.
“When we were thinking about the choice of songs on this album, we decided to record primarily original compositions of our own combined with a few cover versions which have a special meaning to us,” Rabitsch tells us. “In a way it was a natural selection, because our decision to perform as an acoustic duo omitting electronic programming forced us to choose and write strong compositions. We think, a good song keeps its quality even in the smallest line-up.
“’Little Wing’ is a song we have been playing together for years, and especially for Robert, it is a song he has been playing half of his life in different ways, bands and arrangements. When we recorded it, we wanted to leave the typical sound of the Fender Stratocaster and the unavoidable guitar solo. Instead of that we used a western guitar and a muted trumpet solo to change the so often heard character.
For me as a singer (Michaela) the poetric lyrics offer me a wide range of interpretation. Every time we perform this song in our shows, it creates an exciting atmosphere full of feelings, and it doesn’t matter if we are playing in a jazz club, on a festival or in front of an audience with variable musical taste – this song always touches the hearts of people, creating a connection with the audience. – And so it touches our hearts, and therefoer it is one of our favorite songs.”
Rabitsch serenades us with her vocals and muted trumpet bridge, bringing a jazzy presence to Pawlik’s steel string guitar underlayment on their interpretation.
“For me Jimi Hendrix was one of the rare influences in rock music, though, as a trumpet player, I was primarily influenced by Jazz players like Miles Davis, Chet Baker or Freddie Hubbard,” Rabitsch says.
Pawlik concurs. “Talking about the influence......Starting with a question: Is there any modern guitarist, who is not influenced by Jimi Hendrix? – I don’t think so, because even if you don’t know Jimi Hendrix, he is perceptible in any guitarist coming after him.
My first Hendrix record was Smash Hits. I got it when I was 16 years old and I listened to it till it got scratched. Later on it was followed by many others. A few years later I heard a band playing ‘Little Wing’ in a club in Vienna, an from that moment on I was so impressed, that I had to learn this song.” He goes on to note, “What especially impresses me in Jimi Hendrix is his extraordinary phrasing, his powerful playing and feel. If you compare him with modern superguitarists who are all technical wizards, he beats them just playing a few notes.”
Mikolaj Furmankiewitcz, Department of Virtuosity
Well, going down to business, there is necessary to write it is the first official release by Michaela (vocals, trumpet, flugelhorn) and Robert (guitars) as a duo. The only one guest on this CD is a snare drum player - Heimo Wiederhofer. This acoustic stuff includes 6 original tracks and 4 covers - "Just the Two of Us" (B. Withers, W. Salter, R. MacDonald), "Little Wing" (Jimi Hendrix), "Time After Time" (Robert Hymann, Cindy Lauper) and "This Masquerade" (Leon Russell).
Looking at aforesaid names, we can draw a conclusion that the second album by an Austrian duo is inspired by such genres like jazz, blues rock, Latin and pop music.
This time, most tracks are subdued, swinging, soporific, calm, tranquillizing and grounded on feeling. All tracks are masterly performed and arranged, and interestingly improvised, proving Michaela and Robert are top players.
One of the strongest points of the album are tempting and penetrating vocals by Michaela, not to mention her sexy scat!
Only highly skilled musicians can play beautiful music that affects the listeners' spirits and heals their exhausted bodies! Michaela along with Robert managed to produce such an atmosphere which is very helpful in keeping the harmony in the present fast-developing world!