PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

Jann Klose: 16 November 2009 - Chicago

Lisa Torem

Klose has the classically incandescent look of a young James Taylor. Wavy brown hair frames his chin and ocean-blue eyes sparkle as he strums.

Jann Klose

Jann Klose

City: Chicago
Venue: Uncommon Ground
Date: 2009-11-16

Tea light candles spread soft shadows across polished wooden tables. The fragrance of piquant chili and garlic trail from the kitchen and over-sized canvasses depicting birds in flight hang over brick facades, but this muted and tranquil physical environment belies the evening’s demographic – a loquacious crowd.

What began as hushed chatter between youthfully well-dressed hipsters rose in decibel level and didn’t wane even as Bronx singer-songwriter Jann Klose and accordionist/pianist Lars Potteiger made their way onto the small stage of Uncommon Ground, a popular north-side Chicago coffee house.

It was a brisk night and a fierce wind was gathering speed. Klose played an early evening set – this venue is known for steaming mugs of cider and great food – which most likely attracted this mob of backslapping, high-fiving “regulars”. Still, Klose remained cool and cavalier even as the chatter continued during his opening remarks.

Klose has the classically incandescent look of a young James Taylor. Wavy brown hair frames his chin and ocean-blue eyes sparkle as he strums. He has a substantial vocal range. His voice is pure and enunciation crisp. Close your eyes and he sounds uncannily like one of his major influences; Sir Paul McCartney.

Klose and Potteiger have performed together for more than four years. Potteiger, who began plunking piano at five, has been the accordion soloist with the Richmond Symphony Orchestra for years and leads a self-titled jazz ensemble. Klose strums vibrant chords on his guitar. Wearing a tailored jacket and denim jeans, he maintains steady eye contact with his dark-haired, bespectacled partner who modulates to another key. Soon they both sing along to a repetitive refrain.

Launching into a shuffle and deadening the strings while establishing a sort of Steely Dan groove, Klose displays some dreamy tenor as a smooth jazz feel warms the room. Light keyboard touches trail Klose’s melodic line to which smartly positioned power chords imbue a rock sensibility.

Klose faces the talkative crowd and announces that this is the third or fourth time he has been in Chicago. He plays a tune from his new release Reverie called “Doing Time”. But first, calmly, he replaces a dead battery.

“Can you hold on a second?” Let’s try this again,” he says.

Klose is a confident performer, and although individuals in the audience still seem distracted by the flurry of friends constantly rushing through the door (escaping the rush of cold air whooshing outside), he stays on task. ”Doing Time” features a modal melodic passage on accordion. Snatches of European folk-dance provide touches of melancholia. Measures that recall Hungarian composer Bela Bartok subtly appear.

Klose sings longingly about days that he “remembers”. The melody holds a nostalgic mist like that heard in “Those Were the Days”. The lyrics are pleasant, but what creates the mood is the sense of emotional history that Klose owns up to. The fact that he is well travelled doesn’t hurt.

Klose was born in Mannheim, Germany, but his family moved to Nairobi, Kenya when he was almost one. From there, they relocated to South Africa and Hamburg, Germany. Then at sixteen, he became an exchange student in Cleveland, Ohio. He subsequently studied voice with David Gooding, sang in the Cleveland Opera Chorus and eventually joined the Broadway touring company of Jekyll and Hyde and the European tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. Now residing in the Bronx, he derives energy from the cultural mix that surrounds him.

Klose has a lightness of spirit. I’m getting the impression that he is not one to complain about hot stage lights, cold food or rude audiences. He’s singing a ballad that could be sung in the Parisian artist haven “Sacre Coure”. Heads turn towards him. The noise level has subsided. You can feel a pin drop. Potteiger moves over to the acoustic piano and his large hands play super-sized chords that color Klose’s voice. While Klose sings some intimate phrases, Potteiger puts forth arpeggios. Eyes from the once-restless crowd now rest completely on the stage.

He covets the mike. “Question of the Heart” is moving. It’s another intense ballad set against arpeggios. “In your arms I feel the moves,” Klose croons as he trails into unexpected falsetto. Knowing that he’s a classically trained opera singer, I wonder what else will happen musically tonight. He announces his brand new song “The Kite”.

Klose wrote this song about “A person in my life really important to me – a person who was really strung out. I wanted to lift him up,” he said. .Potteiger shows great concentration as he maintains eye contact but he seems relieved when Klose takes over the repartee. Potteiger seems oddly content in his own reclusive corner of the stage.

Klose admits that he loves playing against the accordion. “You have three instruments in one. It’s melodic and really provides great color. It creates association with certain types of things. It’s so versatile,” he explains. As Potteiger and Klose have been musical partners for four years, I ask Klose backstage about the constant communication required on stage, and they both laugh. “I try not to give him dirty looks,” Klose intones.

They have gotten to know each other’s foibles and moods and can communicate musical ideas easily through simple glances. However, Klose admits that touring in general can be arduous with exhausting days that never end. Currently, the duo engage in a minimum of one-hundred shows a year.

“Artists aren’t developed anymore. Sign your life away. It’s a very difficult state. Ridiculously hard,” Klose explained as we spoke about building an audience. Working hard to build a fan base in Germany, France, England and Ireland, they are currently building momentum in the States.

“Watching You Go” is about Klose’s grandfather. Simple chords morph into rich strums during this folk-pop cut. Klose spoke to me later about his grandfather’s stubborn streak, of which he later grew to appreciate and understand.

“My grandfather was a tough guy. He lived through the war, when my grandmother died. When he got sick, he just didn’t fight. He was a very hardheaded guy. The song explains it – I didn’t want it to be sad. He was fun loving and strong. I wanted it to be a celebration. He was just done. He’s even handling this with strength,” Klose said.

Klose introduces the song “Still” which he wrote in England last year. Potteiger attacks the keys once more. Klose stands alone on stage. In this gorgeous ballad, he stresses, “I never meant to run away and I love you still.” Sculpting phrases like a Renaissance artisan, his eyes pan the room. Finally, the intimacy of the venue is at one with the calm of his performance. The audience asks for “one more” and the band synch up a rock-samba punctuated by swinging stride piano. Klose ends the set with a Spanish–inspired strum. They end with a bang and I’m grateful that they’ve fleshed out the set with some danceable repertoire tonight.

Some listeners are chowing down on chili and sipping cider. It’s drizzling outside and I can see that the wind is picking up again through the glass window, but it’s warm inside. It has turned out to be a good evening for smart lyrics and gorgeous modal melodies. Klose shakes hands with some old friends who have come to see him. A young woman, he once performed with, hugs him. She had rolled her eyes at me when the audience was loud. I had rolled mine back in sympathy. But, that’s all been forgotten.

“A state of dreamy meditation or fanciful musing” is how linguist Miriam Webster describes “reverie”. Linguists pay attention to detail. Perhaps that is why she added this clause: “Lost in Reverie, a day dream.” Amen.

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.

Music

Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Music

15 Overlooked and Underrated Albums of the 1990s

With every "Best of the '90s" retrospective comes a predictable list of entries. Here are 15 albums that are often overlooked as worthy of placing in these lists, and are too often underrated as some of the best records from the decade.

Books

'A Peculiar Indifference' Takes on Violence in Black America

Pulitzer Prize finalist Elliott Currie's scrupulous investigation of the impacts of violence on Black Americans, A Peculiar Indifference, shows the damaging effect of widespread suffering and identifies an achievable solution.

Music

20 Songs From the 1990s That Time Forgot

Rather than listening to Spotify's latest playlist, give the tunes from this reminiscence of lost '90s singles a spin.

Film

Delightful 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' Is Good Escapism

Now streaming on Amazon Prime, Bharat Nalluri's 2008 romantic comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, provides pleasant respite in these times of doom and gloom.

Film

The 10 Best Horror Movie Remakes

The horror genre has produced some remake junk. In the case of these ten treats, the update delivers something definitive.

Television

Flirting with Demons at Home, or, When TV Movies Were Evil

Just in time for Halloween, a new Blu-ray from Kino Lorber presents sparkling 2K digital restorations of TV movies that have been missing for decades: Fear No Evil (1969) and its sequel, Ritual of Evil (1970).

Music

Magick Mountain Are Having a Party But Is the Audience Invited?

Garage rockers Magick Mountain debut with Weird Feelings, an album big on fuzz but light on hooks.

Music

Aalok Bala Revels in Nature and Contradiction on EP 'Sacred Mirror'

Electronic musician Aalok Bala knows the night is not a simple mirror, "silver and exact"; it phases and echoes back, alive, sacred.

Music

Clipping Take a Stab at Horrorcore with the Fiery 'Visions of Bodies Being Burned'

Clipping's latest album, Visions of Bodies Being Burned, is a terrifying, razor-sharp sequel to their previous ode to the horror film genre.

Music

Call Super's New LP Is a Digital Biosphere of Insectoid and Otherworldly Sounds

Call Super's Every Mouth Teeth Missing is like its own digital biosphere, rife with the sounds of the forest and the sounds of the studio alike.

Music

Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.

Film

15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.