The Cologne-based saxophonist and composer Johannes Ludwig has released more than 10 albums as a bandleader in his now 15-year professional career and is involved in well over 20 recordings. He has been pursuing his own path for a long time and is always on the lookout for his artistic essence.
With Vagabond Souls he now presents his most mature recording on several levels. This may be due to the fact that the relaxation and clarity during recording have never been so great - and this despite the fact that the music was only put down on paper 14 days before recording and the band had never played together before. However, it was clear from the beginning how well the elements would mesh - after all, a lineup was created here that knows each other inside and out from other constellations. On the one hand, there's Johannes Ludwig's working trio Human Element (Gero Schipmann, Alex Parzhuber), on the other Heidi Bayer's band Virtual Leak (Heidi Bayer, Lisa Wulff), and then there's Philipp Brämswig, the guitarist of the Subway Jazz Orchestra, which Ludwig founded with colleagues in 2013 and still runs as co-leader. He has long shared a blind understanding with Bayer in terms of blending, sound and melodic direction, and with Schipmann and Parzhuber a compositional language emerges in their work as a trio that also permeates Vagabond Souls - everything flows together here in the most logical way and could therefore only turn out well. Especially since it is always best created when you know exactly why you wanted each person to be there and where the strengths and preferences of the fellow musicians lie.
Johannes Ludwig is a friend of concrete, gripping music, melodic quality, rhythmic power and no fear of clarity are the essential elements of this extensive sound festival, which is carried above all by the two guitars, which complement and play around each other as if it had always been planned that way. Two completely different characters are Schipmann and Brämswig, here they enter into an amazing symbiosis. The two guitars are a core idea of Vagabond Souls - in the past years the bandleader's enthusiasm for this instrument intensified mainly because the sound options are so unlimited and one can create an incredible width and warmth with them. Expansiveness and warmth also result from the interplay of trumpet and saxophone, which merge into one voice at will and then detach, play around and complement each other again. And then the bass and drums click - both have a deep understanding of their instruments' roles in the band, which creates calm and grounding, even in the most virtuosic passages. The fact that they all soak up the essence of the compositions and add their own voices is then the icing on the cake. Here, all elements intertwine - everyone is at the service of the music, no one plays to the fore, they wait calmly and take the initiative at the right moment - just as it should be when everyone is friends and trusts each other.
Johannes Ludwig (born 1988) is a German saxophonist, composer and multi-woodwind player. He works mainly in artistic projects that stay in the broad field of jazz and related music. His latest projects include the Human Element project with Gero Schipmann and Alex Parzhuber, Heidi Bayer's Virtual Leak, and the band Vagabond Souls, which recorded its debut album 2021 at the Kammermusiksaal of Deutschlandfunk in Cologne. He is also currently producing an electro-acoustic pop EP with Jonas Dannecker. In recent years, his main projects have been the New York City-based band Immigration Booth, the Cologne-based Subway Jazz Orchestra, the Fearless Trio with Simon Nabatov and Fabian Arends, and the duo Nano Brothers with Jürgen Friedrich. As a sideman and soloist, he has played with the WDR Bigband, Jürgen Friedrich Semisong, the CCJO, and the Johannes Enders Saxophone Quartet, among others. In 2021 he was featured as composer and soloist with the WDR Bigband. Composition takes an equal role in his work, this is already documented on over 20 albums. Since 2014, Johannes has been running the FLOATmusic label together with Jens Böckamp. He is a lecturer for big band conducting and jazz saxophone at the University of Music and Theatre Munich. He also curates the jazz festival UpBeat Hohenlohe and the Supernova Series at the Cologne Loft.