It happened in the autumn of 1998 that the duo Nighthawks came onto the scene with their debut album Citizen Wayne. Rare it is that both the media and the public were so united in their appreciation of a high quality German newcomer act whose musical niche in the meantime is called NuJazz. To no ones surprise, two knowledgeable veterans are cloaked by the groups name, producer and bass player Dal Martino and trumpeter Reiner Winterschladen, both well-known musicians of the jazz and pop scene with collaborations previous to Citizen Wayne behind them, including membership in the highly-touted Trance Groove. In the meantime the Nighthawks have become a presence of their own with their jazz and club/lounge music. Cool grooves and atmospheric arrangements are their hallmark, with the solo trumpets clear voicings intimating big city stories full of yearning and trenchant articulations.
Metro Bar, released 2001, opens up the 2nd chapter of the highly intriguing Nighthawks story which the band has enhanced and expanded by a few nuances. Inspired by the famous 1941 Edward Hopper painting of the same name, the Nighthawks, Martino and Winterschladen, are on the hunt, as anyone who takes the time to listen will recognize, for those experiences which only come about after sundown. Not surprisingly, it was also the time of their recording. Dal Martino has been haunting stage and studio with his bass for over 20 years and is also in demand as a producer of film and advertising music in addition to running his own record label. Reiner Winterschladen has also been a professional musician for over 20 years. Presently and since 1995 a permanent member of the NDR Big Band, he has in the past trumpeted for the European Jazz Ensemble, the Manfred Schoof Big Band as well as popular bands like Blue Box, Me & The Heat, Unknown Cases, and Rausch. But it was Trance Groove that brought the two together. Cementing that relationship was a highly satisfactory film project they worked on together resulting in their decision to harness their dual potential for still further collaboration. So, to Dal Martinos home-produced tracks, Reiner Winterschladen laid on melodies or simply improvised. They listened, worked the material over, made changes, rearranged, searched further and found what they were looking for. The same technique was used for their second album, Metro Bar, a true urban soundtrack as opposed to Citizen Wayne, a mix of spaghetti-western associations with big city impressions. Cool without being cold, Metro Bar landed among the top 3 of the German Jazz Charts in Autumn 2001 and achieved the German Jazz Award .
It’s the year 2004 and with As The Sun Sets they decided to go one better and brought in Pat Appleton, the magnificent female vocalist of DePhazz with her voluminous yet satiny voice, topping off an already tasty dish. Listen to how impressively the voice blends with Nighthawks music on titles like Descend, Receptions In Brazil or Capetown Unvisited. Other highlights are the instrumentals, Jetlag and Departure, as well as Managing The Beatles, a homage to bandleader, arranger and composer, Bert Kaempfert. Only with such facets does the jewel show its wholeness. With As The Sun Sets, the Nighthawks live up to their implicit intention of writing jazzy lounge music with a soundtrack vibe on an album that is as stylish as it is emotionally rich, adding another color to the night.
„4“ is the title of the Nighthawks‘ fourth album in 2007, and this title could hardly be more simple and clear. Again Dal Martino and Reiner Winterschladen have found their very own position in the universe between jazz, pop, and ambitious lounge sounds, without just fulfilling the expectations of all those who would have liked more of what the Nighthawks stand for since 1998. That was when the producer and bass player met the trumpet player. And already then Martino and Winterschladen agreed that there had to be a new way. One that lies between all the stylewise beaten paths, that would lead them this way and that, always searching for those special moods of the night. With their debut „Citizen Wayne“ they have set standards and proved that there is such a way.
„4“ presents the Nighthawks as highly adventurous. They make experiments with moods, with sounds, with tiny quotations. This abundance of details makes this album a discovery even at the 20th time listening. The hypnotic voice of DePhazz singer Pat Appleton is back, as she captures the magic of the very early morning on „Define The Day“ gently, yet determinately. On „Pensando em outro mundo“ Brazilian singer Patricia Cruz on ”Here we are” the American singer Shannon Callahan add brilliant vocal accents. Also in the studio in Düsseldorf: Piano player/pianist Jürgen Dahmen (Propaganda, Temptations, Tan), guitar player Markus Winstroer (Lalo Schifrin, Randy Brecker), drummer Thomas Alkier (Dizzy Gillespie, Nigel Kennedy), keyboard player Xaver Fischer, Thomas Kessler on synthesizer and Konstantin Winstroer on bass.
2010: On their album “Today”, the Nighthawks have embarked on an unusual and extraordinarily exciting world tour of a different kind. It is not really what one would have expected of them. At the start, they only had one aim in mind: “Back to the roots”, summarises Dal Martino. “In the sense that we let our ideas run wild and developed melodies and groove fragments without asking ourselves whether these sound fragments fitted together. The final structure of the album crystallised much later.” Their unceasing curiosity to explore new musical horizons has once again led the Nighthawks halfway around the world – especially to eastern regions.
Things cannot always be planned when you work on an album. Emilia Istvan is a case in point. “In Timisoara, I heard ‘Ederlezi’, a traditional Roma song which impressed me a lot. It’s a wonder that the song finally made it on to the album as Emilia is constantly on the move around the entire Balkan area. By lucky coincidence, I managed to record her voice in a hotel room in Bucharest. When the piece was completed I realised that it effectively represented the starting point of our journey which eventually led to ‘Male Tesknoty’ featuring the fantastic Anna Maria Jopek and Sting’s guitarist Dominic Miller.”
Both ‘Ederlezi’ and ‘Male Tesknoty’, a Polish hit from the 80s, demonstrate Dal Martino’s and Reiner Winterschladen’s unique ability to reshape a musically rather absurd original into a typical Nighthawks soundscape. The epic ‘Dust’, the last track on the CD with its somewhat Arabic melodic motif, is evidence of their universal pretensions. On top of this, their music is becoming increasingly compact. Not one note is out of place, not one sample is used just for the sake of it. The Nighthawks are resounding proof of the premise that less is better.
In many cases, their music works like a soundtrack to an imaginary film. The new album ‘Today’ is no exception. One should just listen to the bouncy grooving and mysterious ‘The Consul Is Driving’ which would make a brilliant soundtrack for a psycho thriller. The slightly wistful ‘To The Bar And Back’ would also perfectly complement the film noir genre. “Even after the recording process has started, an album such as this always requires numerous decisions to be taken. I could name each album ’One Million Decisions’. However, in the end I believe that only things that really strike a nerve with us pass through the filter of my spirit.”
The new Nighthawks CD, which has been called ‘’Today’’ for good reason, demonstrates what Dal Martino and Reiner Winterschladen are getting excited about in the here and now. It is a musical journey of discovery: soul, jazz, pop, reggae, Latin American and Arabic influences, melodies from Poland and the Balkan region – driven by their passion for experiment, the Nighthawks are not concerned with borders. Aside from their undoubtedly top class musicianship, it is their curiosity and their love of the unusual that makes ‘’Today’’ so exciting and entertaining.
2014 the Nighthawks are back with their sixth studio album which is entitled “Rio Bravo”. The title is very suggestive and the music does not disappoint. Dal Martino and Reiner Winterschladen conjure up atmospheric scenes in the listener’s mind delivering the perfect soundtrack to match the spell-binding images. Music in true Cinemascope. It was not by chance that the Nighthawks story started with a film music assignment in the mid-1990s. On “Rio Bravo”, one can hear echoes of “Citizen Wayne”, Dal Martino‘s and Reiner Winterschladen’s 1998 debut album. “As the name “Citizen Wayne” implies, our common denominator lay somewhere between an atmospheric trumpet drifting through rainy urban streetscapes and Western film sets featuring white-washed Mexican churches and red dust. “Bronco Suite” on “Citizen Wayne” was inspired by Western soundtracks.”
Both the urban vibe and the Wild West have also made it onto “Rio Bravo”, an album whose relaxed, playful character reveals two musicians at peace with themselves Minor changes in the band line-up, from the successful addition of guitarist Jörg Lehnardt to reducing the tour band to five musicians, helped create the perfect conditions for developing the new songs. “Somehow, everything became more relaxed, more streamlined, easier, more positive. This is the feeling we were aiming to capture on the album. In contrast to its predecessor “Today”, which was dominated by guest musicians such as Dominic Miller, Anna Maria Jopek and Emilia Istvan, this time we kept to the nucleus of the band”, explains bass-player, guitarist and producer Dal Martino. “Similar to our first albums“Citizen Wayne” and “Metro Bar”, we started out with me and Reiner putting down some simple grooves, a few guitar chords and bass lines. Drums and percussion were then added to the demos by Thomas Alkier and Jürgen Dahme and the Hammond and guitars by Markus
Wienstroer and Jörg Lehnardt”. ‚This time, there are no guest vocalists on the album. We have always been an instrumental outfit. The trumpet is our voice. When it is just us alone, as on “Rio Bravo”, we tend to concentrate on instrumental music with only the odd song sang by me thrown in, just like we did in the past”. The song he is referring to is “A California”, the gently grooving track featuring Dal Martino and the Cologne background singers Nin and Little Hill that closes the album.
Entitled 707, the 7th album, released 2016, kicks off in a terrestrial location. For music heads Dal Martino and Reiner Winterschladen, the Boeing 707 is a pertinent childhood memory. When the first Boeing 707 took off into the skies in 1959, the boys tracked the jet engine’s vapour trail. Just six years later, the plane transported the Beatles to America. A mere ½ decade after this, the first rock stars sauntered down the gangway of a 707. Pictures of waving bands, maybe Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones, are part of our collective memory. Dal Martino adds: “Basically, the 707 was the first transporter of culture in a musical world that was becoming increasingly international. The names of the bands were emblazoned in huge letters on the hulls of the planes, an incredibly powerful picture. I was totally fascinated.” An echo of the spirit of the time was definitely present in the studio. Time and again, libertine Reiner Winterschladen, an avid proponent of improvised music, had to restrict his trumpet playing to comply with Dal Martino’s focus on reduction. These conflicting poles gave birth to an abundance of sound sketches which, craning over the studio desk, Dal Martino considerably condensed during countless night sessions. The resulting album consists of 7 songs as well as the 707 Suite in four movements – a journey lasting just under an hour.
At the core of the album lies Suite 707. A powerful, at times edgy, work that even expands into psychedelic rock. At the same time, Suite 707 refers back to the Bronco Suite, created in 1998, extracts of which still appear in the Nighthawks’ live programme.
There was a time when the Nighthawks did not approach live playing lightly. However, with musicians such as Jürgen Dahmen (keys/rhodes/perc.), Jörg Lehnardt (guitar) and Thomas Alkier (drums), the quintet has found a stable line-up which, aside from several guest musicians, were instrumental in the recording of the new album. In contrast to other bands, the musicians don’t go into the studio together but are rather summoned once the musical cauldron is bubbling, the sketch is taking shape and their particular instrument is required. This is quite a time-consuming way of doing things, especially since Dal Martino’s mind tends to wander off to America where he once lived. The relaxed sounds of J.J.Cale or Steely Dan are still reverberating in the sound. As singer for the project, Dal Martino invited Jeff Young on board, a musical partner of Donald Fagen (Steely Dan), Jackson Browne, Sting, Bonnie Raitt and many others. His wonderful voice pilots the album’s pop song Happy Days. Jeff Young co-composed this track and is responsible for bringing some L.A. breeziness to the album. Happy Days is preceded by Six a.m. Gate 27, a typical Nighthawks song that features some excellent flugelhorn playing by Reiner Winterschladen. The last track on the album, the Casino Revisited remix, should be familiar to any serious Nighthawks fan.
Having listened to 707, reflecting on the band’s oeuvre, one may well recognise a few musical motifs and thematic fragments from earlier albums. The band has an unerring knack for travelling through air and terrestrial space and discovering their own musical routes. However, new and old paths keep on crossing and musical memories return, memories that don’t require any navigation. Listeners become steady travel companions who surrender themselves to the exhilarating imagery with eyes either open or closed. Although there are definite starting and arrival points, the journey itself always plays out as a compressed soundscape, one where each listener controls their own film playback.