Tenor saxophonist Tobias Meinhart moved to New York City in 2009, having already worked professionally for several years on the jazz scene in Germany and across Europe. Over the course of the past six or so years, Meinhart has been busy splitting his time between New York and Europe, but over that time completed a Master’s Degree from the Aaron Copland School of Music, where he studied with Antonio Hart, John Ellis, and Seamus Blake, and recorded four albums: Pursuit of Happiness (Doublemoon, 2010), Live at Getxo Jazz Festival (Errebal Records, 2012), In Between (Doublemoon, 2014), and his latest album, Natural Perception (Enja Records, 2015).
Much of the music on the album was inspired by Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Spiritual Journey, which led Meinhart to focus on composing music with the emotional and spiritual in mind. To that end, he composed melodies by singing them first without an external instrument, a technique which he gleaned from studying composition with bassist Alexis Cuadrado, incidentally also a 2012 Residency Commission recipient.
The album features musicians that Meinhart developed relationships with since entering the New York scene, but one musician has known Meinhart longer than anyone else: trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, who first met him in 2002 and has since acted as a mentor, guiding him in matters both artistic, business-related, and personal.
“Strong thematic elements occur in Tobias’ tunes that make them easy to play on and extend,” says Jensen in Ted Panken’s liner notes to Natural Perception. “He’s very clear about what he wants in the tunes, but has the jazz sensibility to allow things to blossom based on where the band takes it, or where the energy of the moment wants to go.”
Meinhart is quick to acknowledge the lessons he’s picked up from Jensen over the years. In the fall of 2015, the quintet went on tour across Germany, Spain, and the Czech Republic, playing nearly every night for two weeks—invaluable musical experience that not all young musicians are routinely afforded.
“I learned a lot from just sharing the stage with Ingrid night after night,” Meinhart says. “She always gives her all at every performance, and I observed her stage presence—how, if something unexpected happens, she’s able to respond to the situation and make it go somewhere.”
These days, Meinhart spends most of his time in New York, although he continues to return to Europe for occasional tours and to teach at summer workshops. And for all the challenges that the city presents, New York is still the place to be.
“It’s much more competitive here than there, but I love it,” he says, adding:
“I love that you can play sessions with anyone; over here, sometimes people don’t want to just play sessions. They have families and gigs that pay very well, and they’re asking, ‘Are we rehearsing? Will there be a gig?’ Over here, all you have to do is ask, and, most of the time, if people have time, they’ll play.”
Tobias Meinhart celebrates the release of NATURAL PERCEPTION at The Jazz Gallery on Tuesday, January 26th, 2016. The performance will feature Meinhart on tenor saxophone and EWI, Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and effects, Yago Vazquez on piano and Rhodes, Joe Martin on bass, and Jesse Simpson on drums. Sets are at 7:30 and 9:30 P.M. $15 general admission, FREE for Members. Purchase tickets here.