Surprising as it may seem, drummers are often accomplished composers and Nuremberg-native Mareike Wiening confirms this truism on her debut CD. Her eight tunes are interpreted by a selection of New York’s top contemporary players, which besides Americans, pianist Dan Tepfer and tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, include fellow German, bassist Johannes Felscher, and ex-Torontonian, guitarist Alex Goodman.
Basically Wiening’s strategy is to create subtle sprightly lines, centred on harmonies from Goodman’s fluid fretting and Tepfer’s stacked triads and smooth key changes. Once established, Perry’s sometimes biting and always-flowing solos buoy the melody atop rhythm section swinging. Besides leaving space for frequent single-string guitar extensions and even a bass solo, Wiening’s brush and stick work is also notable for its taste.
Tunes range from charming or moody to ones such as the title tune and 2 in 1 which give scope to saxophone slurs, and rolling chords that ricochet from the guitarist to the pianist. The challenging Misconception is the foot-tapping standout, however, as Tepfer digs in with harder accents, Goodman hammers out the exposition while drum rolls and rattles characterize the stop-time finale.
If the CD has a drawback, it reflects Wiening’s confidence, or lack of same, as a composer. She has demonstrated that she can write subtle melodies that are lightly rhythmic while retaining sophistication. But as Misconception demonstrates by moving outwards from this lyrical comfort zone she can also create sounds that animate as well as they assuage.