Sebastian Gille – Achim Kaufmann – Matthias Akeo Nowak – Bill Elgart’s Common Ground (2018) Jazzwerkstatt

In 2018, tenor saxophonist Sebastian Gille, pianist Achim Kaufmann, double bassist Matthias Akeo Nowak, and drummer Bill Elgart released Common Ground, their debut album.

Sebastian Gille – Achim Kaufmann – Matthias Akeo Nowak – Bill Elgart – Common Ground (2018) Jazzwerkstatt

The eight pieces on Common Ground include three original compositions by Achim Kaufmann, “Lost Gesture,” “Dingbats,” and “Ebblights” and a pair by Matthias Akeo Nowak, “Blues” and “Dawn” and two from Sebastian Gille, “Winter” and “The Place Where I Belong.”

Sebastian Gille – Achim Kaufmann – Matthias Akeo Nowak – Bill Elgart – Common Ground (2018) Jazzwerkstatt back

Carla Bley’s “King Korn” closes the album. The composition first appeared on Paul Bley’s 1965 album Footloose! — three years later Bill Elgart joined Gary Peacock on Paul Bley’s Mr. Joy, Elgart’s vinyl debut.

Achim Kaufmann’s “Lost Gesture, the opening track on Common Ground, is on YouTube in North America and select markets:

Common Ground, the first of the quartet’s two albums released on the German label Jazzwerkstatt, was recorded at Deutschlandfunk Kammermusiksaal in Köln in May 2016.

Sebastian Gille, Matthias Akeo Nowak, Bill Elgart, and Achim Kaufmann from Common Ground (2018) Jazzwerkstatt CD insert

Besides streaming on major platforms, Common Ground is available in CD and digital download from most major resellers. Additionally, the album can be purchased in either format directly from Jazzwerkstatt.

“Winter,” the sixth cut on Common Ground, was performed live at Winterjazz Festival at Stadtgarten Köln on 6 January 2020. A video of this performance of the Sebastian Gille piece, edited by Joshua Elgart, is online:

The origins of the multi-generational quartet go back to when saxophone player Sebastian Gille, the youngest member, born in 1983, met bassist Matthias Akeo Nowak, seven years his senior, in Cologne. Together the two Germans decided to found the group. Later, drummer Bill Elgart, a transatlantic jazz veteran born in Boston in 1942 who has resided in Europe more than half his life, joined the group. Pianist Achim Kaufmann, born twenty years after Elgart, was the final member added, bringing the perspective of a fourth decade to the quartet.

Sebastian Gille, Matthias Akeo Nowak, and Bill Elgart in 2017 (photo by Klaus Mümpfer)

Stefan Hentz comments in the liner notes, translated from the original German to English by Matthias Akeo Nowak:

Music happens: Musicians come together, one plays and has an idea, the others joining in and let things happens, unpredictable, very personal things; the goal is beauty and expression. [The four members of Common Ground are] …very different in age and life paths but amazingly close together, if you put the flow of their musical ideas in focus. Together they play a music in which all prerequisites, the differences of the life paths and horizons of experience no longer matter–with the utmost concentration, all four work to make new melodies, rhythms, textures happen again and again.

Whether it is Elgart, who plays his drums with a tremendous richness of color, so that under the rhythmic accents melodic movements resonate, or Kaufmann, who always provides the potential for sudden changes of direction with the rich harmonies in his left hand; whether Nowak with clarity and great calmness links the various melodic threads, or Gille, who, with his striking, almost breathless tone and an almost ascetic calmness, only lines up the notes, which the music really needs: it is the high of improvisation that can be experienced here.

All eight tracks from Common Ground are included in an auto-generated playlist for the album available in North America and select markets:

Common Ground at Jazzwerkstatt Peitz 57

On 11 September 2020, Common Ground appeared at the long-running German jazz festival, Jazzwerkstatt Peitz. The theme of the 57th edition: “A Festival of Small Ensembles from Solo to Quintet.”

Besides small ensembles, the festival took a moment to remember the 100th birthday of American saxophonist, composer, and band leader Charlie Parker.

Achim Kaufmann, Matthias Akeo Nowak, Sebastian Gille, and Bill Elgart at Jazzwerkstatt Peitz 57 in 2020 (photo by Ingrid Hoberg)

A video from this performance shot at Festival Tent Festungssaal, featuring Sebastian Gille on tenor saxophone, Achim Kaufmann on piano, Matthias Akeo Nowak on double bass, and Bill Elgart on drums, is on YouTube:

New Common Ground Album: Orimusic

The second album by Common Ground, Orimusic, was released on 18 November 2022. The Jazzwerkstatt (JW 229) album is available in CD and digital format, in addition to being found on various streaming services.

Common Ground – Orimusic (2022) Jazzwerkstatt

Stay tuned for more information about the newest adventure in free improvisation from Sebastian Gille, Achim Kaufmann, Matthias Akeo Nowak, and Bill Elgart.

February 2023 Birthday Concert in Ulm

19 February 2023, Common Ground will celebrate Bill Elgart’s 80th birthday with an appearance at Stadthaus Ulm. Ticket reservations and further information for this Jazz in Ulm program can be found at or by calling 0731 610 750.

Bill Elgart in 2019 (photo by Ralf Dombrowski)

The members of Common Ground were interviewed by Odilo Clausnitzer before a concert at the Loft in Köln on 19 August 2021. The radio special also features a live performance by the quartet. Note that interview is conducted in German.

Author: Formosa Coweater

writer based in the Pacific Rim

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