Web Web is a German jazz quartet based in Munich comprised of Roberto Di Gioia on piano and Fender Rhodes, Tony Lakatos on saxophone, Christian Von Kaphengst on bass and Peter Gall on drums. Since their début release in 2017, the band’s main modus operandi has been to channel the live energy and spontaneity of an independent Afro and spiritual jazz sound heard in the 1970s and championed by legendary record labels such as Strata-East or Black Jazz Records.

Recording their music in one take, the band have released three other albums since including a partnership with hip-hop producers on Interpretations of Web Web in 2020. On Web Max, a collaborative album several years in the making featuring ten new compositions and released on Compost Records on 21 August 2021 last, Roberto Di Gioia et al expand their sound considerably by inviting German producer Max Herre to join them on synthesisers and Wurlitzer alongside a host of prestigious guest musicians.

Web Web - Web Max (2021)
Web Web – Web Max (2021)

The last decade or so has witnessed a huge surge of interest for the spiritual jazz era of the early 1970s which was perhaps eclipsed at the time by the emergence and popularity of fusion, jazz rock and Latin jazz. The music of Alice Coltrane in particular and her blend of harp-led acoustic jazz with orchestral arrangements and eastern philosophy is now finding a new audience. And recent compilations or re-releases such as Luaka Bop’s The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda (2017) or Impulse’s Kirtan Turiya Sings have shed a new light on her devotional recordings released in the 1980s on cassette tapes and only intended for members of her ashram at the time.

On Web Max, the presence of New-York-based harpist Brandee Younger provides an immediate connection to this era on two songs: the superb “Satori Ways” and “Intersections”. As a custodian of the unique sound fashioned by Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, Brandee Younger is also in the process of rejuvenating the jazz harp dynamics as witnessed by her remarkable 2020 Force Majeure collaboration with bassist Dezron Douglas or her most recent 2021 Somewhere Different solo release.

The beating while we live is constant, that bleeding flesh within the chest. How long will it continue? A heart stops, another starts, it beats and bleeds within the chest, it whispers, it speaks the truth – listen! Yusef Lateef

Led by Tony Lakatos on alto flute, “Akinuba” is a majestic theme superbly bookended by the voice of legendary multi-instrumentalist Yusef Lateef (1920 – 2013) on “The Heart”. The text comes from “Syllogism”, an essay and composition for baritone and piano which the musician originally read himself in the 2005 documentary Brother Yusef.

“Meskel Flowers” features the talent of another legendary musician and father of Ethio-Jazz, namely Mulatu Astatke on vibraphone. The trumpet playing of New York-based musician and co-founder of Strata-East Records Charles Tolliver can also be heard on “Intersections”. Elsewhere, both “Turquoise” and “Liberation March” have an Eastern vibe while “The Sequel” concludes the album with a flurry of drums and brass.

As a tribute collaborative recording, Web Max is a testament to the lasting and prodigious impact American jazz players had decades ago when they toured Europe, as recalled by band leader Roberto Di Gioia:

Just before the recording session in New York, Charles [Tolliver] called Roberto to iron out all the musical details. When Charles asked Roberto where he actually lived, the legendary phrase was uttered, “You know Roberto, back in the seventies – WE OWNED MUNICH!”

At the same time, by partnering with Max Herre who is better known in Germany as a rapper and hip-hop artist, Web Web are animated by the same spirit of adventure as their beloved American masters who embraced electric keyboards for instance to broaden their sonic palette or started looking towards the African and Asian continents for spiritual inspiration.