The Jan Prax Quartett is seen as one of the promising newcomers of Young German Jazz. Having listened to “Keepin’ A Style Alive” for a few weeks now, I would go further than this and say “One of the most promising newcomers in jazz full stop exclamation mark”. This recording is fresh, inspiring and at times jaw-droppingly enjoyable. The quartet is Jan Prax, alto and soprano saxophones, Martin Soros, piano and Fender Rhodes, Tilman Oberbech, bass, and Michael Mischi, drums. Together they successfully draw on some of the timeless, traditional elements of jazz and connect this to the present day with a modern infusion of guile and infectious energy. It’s slick, it’s silky, and it’s sexy. Speaking generally, the tracks performed on this debut release are in one way (and in a very good way), a throwback to the likes of John Coltrane and Charlie Parker. Prax’s playing is incredibly stylish and self-assured for such a young musician. In another way Prax’s sound reminds me of some of the modern-day exponents of the saxophone, akin to the fluent, effortless playing of Joshua Redman.
The ten tracks showcased here are all original compositions, skilfully written and consummately performed. All the tunes are top-notch, but special mention has to be given to “Trane’s Ride”. I actually laughed with nervous disbelief when I heard this track, it is just so incredibly good. The title track itself, “The Journey”, “Shades of Autumn” and “Is That Right” are also all top drawer jazz compositions that allow the quartet to shine, the musicians obviously feeling the music in a wonderful way. The tunes pulsate with a life affirming rhythm and groove laid down by the drums of Mischi and the bass of Oberbeck. Pianist Martin Soros is outstanding throughout. He seems to have an unnerving natural knowledge of when to sit with quiet appreciation of what’s going on around him, and when to run with fast-flowing ideas that spark into life and take the tune into new, exciting territory. And then there is Prax himself, his alto and especially his soprano playing being both thoughtful and inventive consistently across the whole album.
If you only take the time to listen to one new band you haven’t heard before this year, may I suggest you make it this one. Take a chance and buy this album, as a jazz lover I doubt you’ll be disappointed. The Jan Prax Quartett really are “Keepin’ a style alive”.