There are instrumental combinations that are considered problematic. In the case of jazz, the duo of piano and steel-stringed guitar is one of them. In order to break the sound problem of the piano-guitar duo the guitarist Philipp Schiepek and the pianist Walter Lang agreed to use a nylon-stringed guitar for the pieces of the album Cathedral. The sound of this guitar is softer and more colorful than the sound of a steel-stringed guitar and does not clash as much with the sound of a steel-stringed piano.
Both musicians, who come from Germany, enjoy an excellent reputation as masters of their instruments. The older of the two, the nearly sixty-year-old pianist Walter Lang studied jazz piano and achieved his first successes on the piano with the internationally successful Rick Hollander Quartet. Since 1999 he has been active with his own Walter Lang Trio and since 2005 also with the Trio ELF and in the Worldmusic Project WPE. Philipp Schiepek, 33 years younger, studied jazz guitar at the conservatories of Würzburg and Munich and then classical guitar. He has made a name for himself with jazz projects ranging from hardbop to modern creative and avant-garde jazz, as well as with joint concerts with jazz greats such as Klaus Doldinger and John Scofield. In 2020, he and his quartet recorded the album Meadows and Mirrors as a recording of the Corona concert without an audience for the Jazzfest Berlin Radio Edition.
On Cathedral, guitarist and pianist rely on simple, catchy melodies, improvised freely in question and answer, but also in unison. The highly sensitive touch of the pianist, which finds its counterpart in the perfect pearly playing of the guitarist, merges into a highly sensitive musically and sonically independent whole relying on the power of silence, whose fascination lasts from the first to the last piece of the album.
Philipp Schiepek and Walter Lang demonstrate impressively on their album Cathedral that a sound can be distilled from the instrumentally problematic combination of guitar and piano that leaves nothing to be desired in terms of colorfulness and fine-grained dynamics, especially when produced and recorded as carefully as is the case here. The two musicians take their listeners on a journey that, for all its basic unexcitedness, is captivating thanks to enormous inner tension, whereby variety is provided from the chorale-determined title track to the meditatively serene "Kamo", the melancholy "The World Is Upside Down" to the soul comforter "The Encourager".
Philipp Schiepek and Walter Lang demonstrate impressively on their album Cathedral that from the instrumentally problematic combination of guitar and piano an anything but controversial sound can be distilled, which leaves nothing to be desired in terms of colorfulness and fine-grained dynamics, especially when produced and recorded as carefully as is the case here.
Philipp Schiepek, nylon string guitar
Walter Lang, Grand piano