Stefan Schultze

composition & piano

Press Reviews

Schultze Ehwald Rainey / Behind Her Eyes - Release

Schultze and Ehwald both relish exploring the melodic contours of the pieces, which are often reflective, even dreamy, while Rainey’s cymbal color play remains the epitome of sensitivity.

John Sharpe, The New York City Jazz Record, 2017

Stefan Schultze - Large Ensebmle / Ted The Bellhop - Release

This is the second orchestral / Big Band album by the German pianist / composer Stefan Schultze released on the WhyPlayJazz label and his third recording with the Large Ensemble. The music is performed by an eighteen piece orchestra and Schultze composed five of the six extended pieces the album presents. The remaining piece was composed by Carla Bley. Schultze himself does not play on this album. The Chinese sheng player Wu Wei guests on one track.

The music is a brilliant amalgam of Jazz sub-genres and orchestral sound, which characterizes the European approach to Big Band music, which although powerfully swinging, is able to extend the idiom in many different directions, often simultaneously, encapsulating decades of the Big Band tradition and European instrumental music.

The compositions, although melody based, are very modern and always fascinating. Schultze wrote intricate and masterly woven arrangements, which present the full scale of possibilities of the Big Band and the many balances existing between the orchestra's sections, the soloists and the overall sound.

The performances by all the musicians involved in this project are absolutely stunning, especially so in view of the complexity of the music and the challenges it presents both to the ensemble players and the soloists.

Overall this is a brilliant album from start to finish, especially so in view of the fact that Big Bands are almost extinct on the contemporary Jazz scene, a sad reflection of the cultural climate today. Both the music and the performances are inspired and highly aesthetic, which makes this album an absolute delight for all Big Band enthusiasts and in fact all Jazz connoisseurs. A must!

Stefan Schultze - Large Ensemble / Adam Baruch, (June 2017)
Simon Rose - Stefan Schultze / The Ten Thousand Things - Release

“Baritone and alto saxophonist Simon Rose and pianist Stefan Schultze met in 2013 in Berlin, and even if the first came from the free improv scene and the second from a more standard jazz background, their collaboration on this album makes you wonder about these different perspectives because it all sounds so seamless and integrated.

On eleven improvisations these two musicians find a wonderful balance between ferocious destruction and sensitive construction, starting with their instruments, as the piano is prepared with all kinds of plastic sticks and bags, and Rose is a real fan of circular breathing, rhythmic tongue slapping, and other harder to define techniques, yet at the same time, and despite the obvious harshness, the music strikes a deep emotional chord, like a cry full of agony and pain, with vulnerability and even tenderness and intimacy. And that may explain the title, as "The Ten Thousand Things" is a buddhist expression of all the things that make up our world, and their musical reflection gives us this : a myriad of sounds and interactions that make us feel these 'ten thousand things', with all their qualities, and complexities and simplicities and gentleness, and so much more.

What I love about the album is that the two artists have a strong common vision and they go for it, all the way. There's nothing half-hearted here, or no compromising, no crowd-pleasing treats, but only authentic and creative expressivity, like life itself, hard and real like life itself.

It is one of those albums which take you over completely, and because of its emotional power, it has been a soothing album for me, and listening to it dozens and dozens of times, the raw sensitivity of the baritone, the bell-like sounds of the piano, the physical intimacy, the sometimes violent percussiveness, matched the emotional need of your humble servant, at moments when he felt he wanted to smash the things around him while at the same time needing some consolation and sympathetic sentiments. Apologies for the subjectivity, but there is no other way to approach this music : you love or you hate it. This guy loves it.”

Stef Gijssels, Free Jazz Collective01/2016
Stefan Schultze - Large Ensemble / Erratic Wish Machine - Release

Overall this is a very unusual album, which is definitely worth of the attention of connoisseurs searching non-trivial musical explorations. Schultze, on the other hand, deserves praise and encouragement for pursuing his dreams, which eventually result in such superb recordings as this one.

Adam Baruch, (June 2015)

The music is a wonderfully romantic / lyrical contemporary Jazz, very melodic but absolutely non-trivial. The tunes are masterfully woven by both composers, clearly a continuation of the European Classical Neoromanticism transferred into the Jazz idiom. There is also a certain elegant minimalism, which is manifested by the "less is more" approach, where the essential notes and chords are stated without much ornamentation.
The performances are similarly modest, crystal clear and stylishly beautiful, without a shade of unnecessary sweetness or overdue syrupy tendencies, which often characterize similar efforts. Ehwald has a gorgeous tenor saxophone tone, which is unmistakably top-class. Schultze displays wonderful dynamics in his usage of the piano, cleverly moving between the foreground as a soloist and the background as an accompanist. Most impressive of course is their work as a team, which is the essence of this album, being truly exemplary. This is clearly a team effort without any attempts to dominate, and as a result the listener is treated to a piece of music, which is both emotionally moving and intellectually intriguing.
This album is a classic example how melodic / romantic music can be artistic and ambitious, a complete antidote to the dreaded muzak of smooth Jazz, and as such deserves to become a scholarly model. Gentle souls and die-hard romantics like me will definitely have a field day with this music, as should most Jazz loving listeners. Wholeheartedly recommended!

Schultze Ehwald Duo / Adam Baruch, (February 2015)

"In a year already dominated by duo releases, here’s one that you mustn’t overlook. [...] Six Haunting themes composed by the pair... four by Peter, two by Stefan. [...] The album is titled Grasp and is released on the WhyPlayJazz record label. And I suggest you grasp a copy when you can."

Pete Butchers, Jazz Today (Mai 2014)

“[…] a splendid concert. […] breathtakingly pounding jazz inspired by the Balkans.”

Osnabrücker Zeitung, 11/2012 :: Backyard Jazz Orchestra (Tour 2012)
“It became obvious how versatilely Ehwald and Schultze handle large ensembles. […] The suite-like compositions of Schultze, Ehwald and the Macedonian arranger Vladimir Nikolov struck with facets and contrasts. These showed an elegant balance between fine jazz harmony, impressionistic orchestra parts, rocky elements and balkanic influences.”
Jazzpodium :: Backyard Jazz Orchestra (Tour 2012)
“An orchestra as a crossroad between Balkan music and jazz, and between established jazz musicians and newcomers. Artistic directors Stefan Schultze and Peter Ehwald brought together sixteen musicians from Berlin to Bucharest in order to build bridges with improvised music.”
Jazz Thing :: Backyard Jazz Orchestra (Tour 2012)
“Schultze’s compositions give impulse to new developments, cause tingling sensations, electrify with new-found freedom for the creative jazz musician, whose improvisational co-creation is fundamental. […] Schultze creates atmospheric acoustic impressions reminiscent of some of the woodwind weaves in the forays into chamber music of Charles Mingus: dark, bass-heavy, ponderous.[…]”
Olaf Weiden, Kölnische Rundschau, 10/2011 :: Stefan Schultze - Large Ensemble feat. Wu Wei
“You won’t find a more exquisitely balanced big band debut.”
Jazz’n’More 08/2011 :: Stefan Schultze - Large Ensemble (Run, 2011)
“Solo strength is high on this beautifully scored big band album, produced and directed by the German pianist/composer Stefan Schultze. […] It is Schultze’s writing and the 17-piece band’s ensemble work that really stand out. […] Muted fanfares yield to impressionist vistas and rich harmonies to the occasional bombastic climax.”
Mike Hobart, Financial Times 05/2011 :: Stefan Schultze - Large Ensemble (Run, 2011)
“Schultze creates sparkling spaces that are voluminously filled, and at times iridescent, but never taking leave of the basic beat and song structure. In this way ‘Run’ is a self-assured, lavish and carefully balanced big band debut.”
Ralf Dombrowski, Stereoplay 03/2011 :: Stefan Schultze - Large Ensemble (Run, 2011) (outstanding sound quality!)
"Innovative musicians love to compose for large ensembles and, not unusually, to lead a big band – after all, this is how unique sounds are discovered. Hence the existence of jazz groups such as the award-winning Large Ensemble from Cologne.”
Hans Hielscher, KulturSPIEGEL,, 01/2011 :: Stefan Schultze - Large Ensemble (Run, 2011)
“[…] the focus is on the pianist Stefan Schultze and the saxophonist and clarinettist Peter Ehwald; the pieces of the quartet draw their tension from the contrast between these two musicians. Against Schultze¹s sometimes stringent economy comes the cheeky playfulness of the saxophonist, who makes use of any means at his disposal, from calling out in a shrill voice to plunking away on toy instruments.”
Stefan Hentz, Die Zeit, 06/2011 :: schultzing (federleicht, 2011)
“Jazz with German lyrics! How brave, you think when you hear the first title. When Hanna Jursch, vocalist of the refreshingly different band schultzing, sings about tidying up and architecture (My home) one notices a slightly dadaistic touch and definitely a good dose of humour – a combination which does not always work out in jazz. But here, it does.”
WAZ, 06/2011 :: schultzing (federleicht, 2011)
”federleicht (German for: as light as a feather). Only a true musical heavyweight can sound like that.”
JazzHausMusik, 04/2011 :: schultzing (federleicht, 2011)
“schultzing are one of the most amazing bands of the German jazz scene. […]“
cd aktuell, 04/2011 :: schultzing (federleicht, 2011)
“schultzing’s improvised music is stylistically multifaceted and ranges from sweltering latin jazz (Regenzeit) to raucous jazz rock (In Gent), and from expressively urban modern jazz (federleicht) to a contemporary version of Duke Ellington’s classic Caravan(schultzing have called it Karawahn), a recomposition by Stefan Schultze.[…]”
Jazz Thing, 04/2011 :: schultzing (federleicht, 2011)
“[…] quite different from the well-known mainstream sound that everyone would expect.”
Dragan Stojkovski, Radio Macedonia, Skopje, 04/2010 :: Stefan Schultze - Large Ensemble, Days of Macedonian Music, Macedonia, 2010
“Run – Karawahn, which Schultze has already presented in Carnegie Hall, and Green Falling, for which he collected the ArtEZ Award in Enschede, Netherlands, aren’t even the highpoints of an album that quite by-the-by shows that German jazz has long since won a significant platform on the international stage.”
Rolf Thomas, Jazzthetik, 03/2011 :: Stefan Schultze - Large Ensemble (Run, 2011)
“This music breathes, pulsates and maintains a constant awareness of the responsibility for the collective acoustic impression in every moment. Could music be more democratically represented than this?”
Tom Fuchs, Stereo 03/2011 :: Stefan Schultze - Large Ensemble (Run, 2011)
“Opposites that polarise themselves and get swept along, styles that align, while remaining different. Sounds that sometimes overwhelm, but never become fanciful. […] This is the way to make a big band sound a whole lot of fun.”
Sven Ferchow, Neue Musikzeitung, 02/2011 :: Stefan Schultze - Large Ensemble (Run, 2011)
“Schultze’s influences come from progressive rock à la Frank Zappa, just as much as from classical jazz à la Bill Evans, but also from the modernists such as Toru Takemitsu, Béla Bartók, Anton Webern, Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich and György Kurtág. [...] Clearly, the man goes for quality and energy.”
Ludwig Jurgeit, Jazzpodium, 02/2011 :: Stefan Schultze - Large Ensemble (Run, 2011)
“Even with the impressive size and power of the big band, Stefan Schultze by no means indulges in the intoxication of this powerful sound experience. In the recently released CD of his Large Ensemble, he changes tack between delicate woodwind-drenched passages, sound experiments a la new music, rock grooves and references to the jazz tradition.”
Anja Buchmann for JazzFacts / Deutschlandfunk, 11/02/2011 :: Stefan Schultze – Large Ensemble (Run, 2011)
“One could call it generous or noble: Although they already have their own big band that has itself won several Grammys, the WDR awarded its Jazz Prize 2010 to another big band. This distinction is one that Stefan Schultze’s Large Ensemble has definitely earned.”
Spiegel Online Kultur, 2011 :: Stefan Schultze – Large Ensemble (WDR Jazz Prize 2010)
“Stefan Schultze consistently succeeds in blurring the boundaries between swing music from the U.S. and European avant garde. He nonchalantly blends melodious simplicity and harmonic complexity.”
Bernd Hoffmann, Jazz Historian & Head of WDR Jazz radio station, 2010 :: Stefan Schultze (WDR Jazz Prize 2010)
“The WDR Big Band performed works of Stefan Schultze […] whose pieces open up pleasant perspectives beyond the already wide field of big band composing – with much unconversant room for the soloist to improvise and accords like nice, fat clusters.”
Olaf Weiden, Kölnische Rundschau, 2010 :: Stefan Schultze (WDR Jazz Prize 2010)
“The WDR Big Band demonstrated impressively that 31-year-old composer Stefan Schultze really knows how to manage orchestral balance and harmonic complexity.”
Martin Woltersdorf, Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, 2010 :: Stefan Schultze (WDR Jazz Prize 2010)
“[…] schultzing ignore the laws of jazz. […] The audience almost physically feels them breathing. […] schultzing have adopted a clear and distinct position, to which the German musical scene must in turn position themselves. “
Frank X.A. Zipperer, Jazzthetik 06/2009 :: schultzing (War das schon immer so?, 2009)
“Jazz full of ideas – It still exists: jazz that can surprise us in any given moment.”
Mannheimer Morgen, 06/2009 :: schultzing (War das schon immer so?, 2009)
“schultzing create something new and original. The nine pieces with ingeniously crafted lines, clever arrangements and fresh improvisations reveal something I miss with a lot of new releases: the courage to take risks.“
Jürgen Overkott,, 06/2009 :: schultzing (War das schon immer so?, 2009)
“schultzing are currently one of the most refreshing jazz quintets – performing surprising compositions far beyond the realms of cheap clichés.”
Tobias Richtsteig, Jazzpodium 05/2009 :: schultzing (War das schon immer so?, 2009)
“[...] schultzing experiments [...] without self-consciousness and fear, and without pampering to the audience, but by challenging them instead. Their pieces are chaotic and abstract, then counterintuitive and as light as a feather. Though the listener is not cow-towed to, when a little more time is given, the listener is all the more rewarded. [...]“
melodie & rhythmus, 05/2009 :: schultzing (War das schon immer so?, 2009)
”Lots of praise and glory for a band who have really deserved it; they have shown courage and have beaten new paths. They play jazz – even if this term doesn’t do justice to the music schultzing creates.”
Bernd Schwope, Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, 01/2009 ::: schultzing (War das schon immer so?, 2009)
“Oktoposse demonstrate that, until now, jazz octets have been grossly underestimated. Despite all prejudices to the contrary, a target-oriented and compact way of working can function very well in a line-up of eight. At least, this is what the young formation Oktoposse have proven.”
Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, 10/2005 :: Oktoposse (Klangprobe portrait)
“[…] fresh, cheeky and intelligent music. In short: intellectually stimulating music that is utterly fun.”
Mittelbayerische Zeitung, 07/2005 :: Oktoposse (Winners of „New Generation“ competition, Jazz an der Donau Festival, 2005)