The new album of the trio Reijseger – Fraanje – Sylla
A review by Stephan Eicke

After more than a decade working with the Bavarian record company Winter & Winter, Dutch cellist and composer Ernst Reijseger now started working with Just Listen Records. His new record, aptly titled ‘We Were There’ is, hence, both a new start and a continuation of his work. While ‘We Were There’ presents new facets of his talent and eclecticism, everything that his followers have admired about his music for decades is present – as fresh as ever, as if the sky just spat him out and put him in a recording studio to present sounds no human had ever heard before.

Putting the spotlight on Reijseger does injustice to his colleagues, though. His long-time collaborators Harmen Fraanje and Mola Sylla “make” the album to equal degrees. There are no supporting players in ‘We Were There’. It is very much an ensemble play, a musical equivalent of Robert Altman’s films ‘Nashville’ or ‘Short Cuts’ where no one and everybody stands out.

‘We Were There’ continues the trio’s path on their journey to find new sounds, experiment with their instruments – a piano, a cello, and the human voice – to deliver something that is fresh while at the same time accessible; touching and intimate. But their new album is also different from their previous records. It is noticeably more contemplative, inward-looking; not so much a requiem for our times but a meditation on a requiem for our times.

Recorded as improvisations in one take, reacting to each other’s playing, to gentle movements and gestures, the pieces in ‘We Were There’ deny the listener (and the musicians, for that matter) any grand statements, those sweeping, at times crazed experimental solo passages for the players to shine in the spotlight and prove their unique talents (having written that, Reijseger’s solo album ‘Crystal Palace’ remains his masterpiece). ‘We Were There’ refuses any what Reijseger’s longtime collaborator, director Werner Herzog likes to call “cerebral” movements. In that sense, all three musicians have matured, grown even closer together than they ever were before. Like in every good collaboration, it is unclear who is accompanying who, and Mola Sylla’s thoughtful laments shine as brightly as Harmen Fraanje’s sparkling but minimalist piano playing or Ernst Reijseger’s sliding arpeggios and overtones do.

‘We Were There’ is a quiet, introspective album, one that makes clear how comfortable and confident these astonishing musicians have become with each other and their instruments. What remains a constant is that their music still defies any genre; unwilling to be put in a box and labeled. It is something to be experienced, and the trio’s work has been an ear-opening, fascinating journey, indeed.