Munich in Awe: Oli Rockberger & Mr. Barrington at Kongress Bar


Interesting! Time and again I seem to find that true artists have one character trait in common: Curiosity. They never seem to stop for rest when reaching a certain place in their music career, but feel driven to press on and venture into other territory previously unknown to them. Such are some of the random musings that come to my restless mind upon seeing Oli Rockberger appear live with Mr. Barrington at Kongress Bar Munich last night.

I mean, talk about accolades obtained at a young age: Having studied on a full scholarship at worldwide acclaimed Berklee College of Music and graduating in 2004, he went on to leave his mark in just about any contemporary music genre you can think of and by playing with a gold standard list of music who-is-who, comprising some of the most iconic music luminaries of our days. Other than sitting in as a sideman or being the leader in an ever growing number of projects, he’s worn just about any hat there is to wear as far as musical expertise is concerned, be it composing, arranging, recording, engineering, singing – you name ’em.

I had only known Oli Rockberger’s work through my own modest attempts at testing the waters with Smooth Jazz and the name rang familiar when I heard about Mr. Barrington coming to Munich and after doing a quick research. I remember some of his tracks repeatedly getting play on many of the Smooth Jazz webcasts and radio shows I regularly listen to. But I was sold to the sound of Mr. Barrington when I saw and heard him use the vocoder extensively throughout their performance. Must have touched on the nostalgic string in me or something, but you can’t help but being taken down memory lane when hearing this typical harmonized sound of a human voice being sent through and heavily processed by the music macheriny of a vocoder that first appeared in mid to late 70ies recordings of bands like e.g. Kraftwerk, Electric Light Orchestra or ob Herbie Hancock’s hit single Rockit, of course. But apparently it didn’t satisfy Rockberger’s sense of curiosity to just go and dig up the vocoder from the global music archive. Far from it. He launched electronic fireworks throughout the show that sounded as if one of the above acts – each three to four men strong – manned the keyboard section alone. I guess, you have to be there to fully grasp this macro-quantum-superposition-like phenomenon of a person being in all places at the same time. Operating a slider here, pushing a button there, manipulating controls with the other hand while laying down the richest wall of chords and triggering samples from the AKAI MPK 49, all the while having an eye on the Ableton Live interface and all of this happening while he’s singing and visually communicating with Zach Danziger on drums and Owen Biddle on bass, each of whom have moved fast to become hot tickets themselves – holy crikey! Not to mention the often uneven measures alternating with heavily pumpin’ grooves delivered with the precision of Swiss clockwork and a vengeance teeming with physicality you wouldn’t have expected prima vista of the slim, ectomorphically built Zach Danzinger. Add the growling, ground shaking foundation of Biddle’s bass to this bubbling melange of sonic circuitry and you arrive at a most interesting blend of tour de force meets filigree.

Wow. This sure was a nice fresh change of flavor to Munich’s live music scene. Took me by surprise and storm at the same time and I sure hope, they’ll be back soon. Thanks to Dorino Goldbrunner, Adriano Prestel and Kongress Bar Munich for making this outstanding event happen.

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