Wolfgang Mitschke, a German living in Berlin, has imagined what it’s like to be Latin and living in New York, one supposes, from the suggestion of the title of his latest CD. Mitschke’s biography gives no hint of his ever visiting the Americas.
And Mitschke does it all by himself, a veritable one-man band, as he plays or programs the piano, the keyboard, the strings, the flute, the trumpets, the carnival whistles, the drums and the percussion, compliments of MIDI technology, synthesized sound and rhythmic loops. Proudly an adherent of smooth jazz in a country where not one full-time smooth jazz radio station exists, according www.smooth-jazz.de, Mitschke has gained a reputation there as one of the leading exponents of the genre. Ironically, while smooth jazz rules the airwaves in the United States, or at least in comparison to other jazz styles, it undergoes a kind of cult-based status in Germany, much as non-smooth jazz does in the U.S. And so enthusiastic, well-meaning translated CD reviews and biographical snippets like this one appear in German media: "At the age of 17, a vinyl record of the grandmaster of organ playing, Jimmy Smith, fell into Wolfgang Mitschke’s horny hands and he was carried away before the last bar of the first chorus had even had a chance to fall." Or "the title song.... is uplifting and in a good mood. Wolfgang Mitschke shows his skills in piano play in a jazzy fast way. It’s remarkable, if one knows that he learned the piano play autodidacticly" [sic]. I suppose my German translations of jazzreview.com reviews would be received with the same degree of head-scratching bemusement there.
But, in the end, it’s the music that matters.
Mitschke’s notion of jazz involves complicated technological accomplishments remaining under his control, rather than the interplay among separate musicians exchanging ideas at the spur of the moment. Latin In New York
begins in a Rio de Janeiro state of mind with Antonio Carlos Jobim’s samba, "No More Blues," light-hearted for sure and promising with breezy movement and caxixi-like percussion, though electronic. While it appears at first that Mitschke is inspired by Latin meters and their dance-inspiring rhythms, Latin In New York
track by track diverges from South American genres and slides back into Mitschke’s fondness for smooth jazz and fusion. Perhaps the track "Tribute To George Duke" is most telling as he reveals perhaps one of his primary influences, which makes sense. For Duke does combine the sound of Fender Rhodes with Latin music, often on his own albums and often when he accompanies singers. But Duke doesn’t go it alone, and in fact respects the collaborative process of music, and assumes an accompanying role.
By the time that Mitschke moves into "Streetwalkin’," he is all awash with contemporary jazz, the synthetic bass lines a-poppin’ and the keyboard accents a-jabbin’. "Acid Jazz Vibes" consists of Mitschke’s composition that involves vibraphoning without malleting over synth strings as it approaches alkalinity. "Funky Lines For Anja" is, well, relatively funky in a karaoke kind of way with bells and whistles in a samba feel set up by the percussion.
Wolfgang Mitschke’s Latin In New York
suggests his love of jazz inspired by U.S. and South American musicians, and his technological wonders are marvels to contemplate. However, it seems that Latin In New York
would be analogous to the recording of, for example, Balkan In Berlin
by a jazz musician who has been a lifelong resident of New York.