Steve Cathedral Group is a band that enhances the limits of contemporary jazz fusion. The German band dedicated to the creativity of jazz music is astounding in its multi-genre way. With a creative mixture of jazz, rock, and pop music, Steve Cathedral Group’s sound is entertaining for the audience and -pretty much- didactic for new jazz-rock enthusiasts, as
they refer to their music: “Smart, but not minded.” This philosophy makes their music unique. Catchy melodies, compatible rhythmic structures while going back and forth between fusion and straight rock are all products of this intuitionistic approach. They chose what they need for excellence from each genre and compose their music. With this musical approach, Steve Cathedral Group is awarded by German Pop & Rock Prize in 2018, as the best fusion and jazz-rock band in Germany. However, Steve Cathedral Group has started its journey in Rush Hour in 2016, with recordings of Merino and Aarhus. After a change in drum and bass, after the second and third recordings, Rush Hour was ready. With the album released on 28 November 2020, Steve Cathedral Group’s wide aptitude for combining genres opened to people all around the world.
The album carries Steve Cathedral Group’s musical approach with it, “smart” in its well-layered, structured songs and “not minded” in its multi-genre mixture. The composer of Steve Cathedral Group, Steffen Munster, aimed to compose jazz-rock music without sounding too complex and obscure for fusion enthusiasts. The inspiration for the songs is different, with a varying range from a cover from Peter Gabriel to dynamic, structured fusion songs. In general, the songs in Rush Hour by Steve Cathedral Group are joyful, entertaining, and catchy but never boring, simple, or uncreative. Have a listen: https://orcd.co/rushhour
Steffen Munster – guitar, composer
Felix Meyerle – piano
Sebastian Nöcker – bass
Dominik Müller – drums
This is a dynamic piece that creates a dynamic and vibrant introduction to the album. It has a somewhat cheerful mood. While it’s definitely not the type of music that you’d want to listen to while studying, it would be a great choice if what you want is to enjoy a piece of good acoustic music. It has a distinct musical theme and resembles classical music in that sense.
The piece is well and distinctly structured. Each section of the music has specific instruments playing and it allows the reader to logically divide the piece in their own minds. After listening to it more than twice, you start to tell yourself “now comes the section with the electro-guitar” at the sub-conscious level, which prevents the song to become “tiring to listen”, a trap that many long songs fall into.
The music resembles a well-written essay. The intro and the last bits of the music share the same theme, which effectively concludes the piece in listeners’ minds. There are some random solos in between which adds up to the sophistication of the piece. Each solo is unique by itself and can be seen as melodic “paragraphs”. They all tell something that prepares the listener to the conclusion.
Overall, the piece is enjoyable to listen to. The only little complaint would be that drums tend to be a bit high in the volume in the regular EQ settings. It definitely helps with the overall vibrant mood of the piece, however, can be overwhelming depending on your mood and the environment you are listening to it. Otherwise, this is a great piece that reserved its place in my Spotify playlist.
The second piece, “Aarhus,” in the new album of the Steve Cathedral Group introduces many musical aspects and techniques that work as a key for understanding this new album thoroughly. Aarhus is a famous touristic city in Denmark on its east coast and perhaps one can relate the aesthetic atmosphere created by this piece with the city itself. The piece starts by plainly introducing the repetitive main-theme in order to familiarise the listener’s ears with it, which plays a major role because of its repetition throughout the song.
After the introduction, the piece introduces its melodic motives with the developed main theme. However, unlike the other pieces in this album, the melodic development is interrupted by a smooth melody from the bass and piano in a short time, which later resolves into the main theme. This signals a change for the listener and creates an atmosphere of curiosity, fulfilled by new melodic sentences in a continuous development. Later on, the main theme is once again repeated, but this time the initial melodies are presented again with little decorations.
Yet, the most iconic part is by far the ending for this piece. The freely and bravely made melodic decorations that are harmonized very professionally by the repeating key melodic motives and all the instruments without any hesitation, is absolutely wonderful and takes this piece into a very different level of standard. Even if the ending is quite a surprise for the listener the rhythmic structure, accompaniment, melodies and lead is just in its perfect setting. It is obvious that the risks taken for this part are greatly paid for.
Fields of Gold
Fields of Gold is the highlight of the Steve Cathedral Group’s new album and it’s one of the composer’s favourites. You can easily understand why it’s got this special place from its distinct melodic structure and geniously harmonised accompaniments. The piece starts with repetitive strikes from the piano with the bass introducing the main melodic motives. However, this smooth beginning turns into a grand opening shortly, in which it includes the main theme of the piece.
After every instrument is caught up in the piece, the main motives are introduced again for a better understanding. At the same time, the piano is presenting brave choices that are fully harmonised with the guitar lead, playing one of the major roles in this piece. Later on, the main theme is once again present and acts as a well-formed transition between more durable and slow parts of the piece. In addition to these, the repetition of melodic motives from one instrument to another in key points creates a very strong sense of energy and power.
For the ending, the main theme and melodies are reintroduced with new decorations to sum up the piece for the ending. At this point, ideas are combined with each other in a climactic way which then satisfies the listener’s ears with the powerful closure of the same piano strokes at the start. This trait itself just shows how well thought this song is, easily being the icon in the “Rush Hour.” It is for me to say that it was a great experience to both listen and write for.
Quiet Manner possesses its own distinct theme and melody that is consistently being repeated throughout the piece. The piece is unique in the album in that aspect. The theme is vibrant and cheerful, which makes it the piece that you would listen to when taking a hike in spring, at your most cheerful time.
The highlighted instrument is the guitar, which always plays the main melody, with drums and keyboards accompanying it. That adds up to the cheerful theme. There isn’t a lot of low-pitched sounds, which makes this song safe to listen to early in the morning. The drums also contribute only to produce a sense of rhythm to the piece and do not cause any kind of loud noise that overwhelms the main melody. The sound mix is very well balanced in the song. I would like to note that to truly appreciate this piece, you need to have a good quality sound of equipment. When I listened to this song with a cheap pair of earbuds, I realized that the guitar’s sound is often distorted. When I switched to my Airpods Pro’s, however, that issue was solved. Just keep that in mind.
Lastly, I would like to talk about the structure of the piece. The piece starts with the general cheerful tone that is established with the guitar and keyboard’s combination with drums’ soft accompaniment. Then, the “chorus” section begins, which is a very nice melody that will definitely be an earworm to you from time to time. After that, a nice guitar solo begins, which, interestingly still manages to comply with the theme of the song. You can definitely understand that it’s a section from “Quiet Manner”, however, the section is much more different than the introduction and conclusion of the piece, which adds up to the overall sophistication of the song. The conclusion is the rephrasement of the introduction, however with the adjustment of the dynamics and the sound volume, it is apparent that it’s a conclusion and not an introduction.
Overall, this piece might be your favorite piece if you like to listen to pieces in which the guitar is the star of the song with keyboard and drums’ accompaniment.
Rush Hour, the song with the same name as the album, is a joyful, fun piece that is also refined in many ways. The track is one of the songs which layerings, chord progressions, solos, simply all important aspects of jazz, culminating in the album. The song starts with a rhythm in complex time which is enjoyable to follow and hooks the listener into the song. This nice and catchy rhythm occurs to be the backbone of the melody and harmony throughout the song. Just after a few moments, the piano enters smoothly and starts with some nice chord progressions. Tones are in harmony, and progressions are joyful and entertaining. At this point, before the first solo, the song manages to completely hook the listener into a fun atmosphere. The first solo is creative and neatly carried out. While the bass makes it solo, the piano and the rhythm sometimes does not cease.
The catchy rhythm and the piano with nice chord progressions continue to play during the bass solo. Although these somehow shadow the amazing bass solo, it is innovative and, still, fun to listen to. The continuing solos construct the rest of the song. These solos which are executed by different instruments are all unique to the moment they’re played in the piece. Towards the end, some approach to collective improvisation may be noticed, reminding the listeners way back 1980s, the free jazz. Again with these collectively improvised solos, the “sound” of the track seems to shift, to a harder rock tone rather than the previous entertaining and fun fusion. However, the change in sound does not take long and the track finishes the same rhythmic and melodic structures, making the listener feel entertained again. In general, Rush Hour picks up, slows down, and goes completely different again and again with its large dynamic range. It is certainly the “big” piece of the album.
Landscapes is the sixth song in the Steve Cathedral Group’s new album “Rush Hour.” One can say that the song is quite different from the rest of this album with its distinct piano melodies and chord progressions. However, the guitar’s part cannot be ignored with its major role of being the lead. In addition to this, nearly every instrument has its own part in this piece and all these melodic motives are deeply connected with each other with key transitions.
The piece first starts by introducing the main theme in order to prepare the listener for its use in many transitional phrases throughout the piece. This part is presented by the guitar which resolves into the piano’s part by a smooth transition. One should take into account that the heroic passages made by the pianist in this part gave this piece another meaning. Continuing, a calm passage from the bass takes the lead and introduces light melodies that act as a foundation for the enormous saxophone part.
It must be said that the generous melodic decorations, the fearless reintroduction and development of these melodies in a very fast and sustained way by the saxophone is breathtaking. The combination of this brave saxophone and the guitar, later, is a total work of art. This surge of creativity and constantly increasing musical weight and its resolution to the main theme with the subsequent transitions for the ending only shows that the group didn’t hesitate to take risks. One should be glad that they didn’t.
World’s Fair is a beautiful piece that manages to combine the smoothness and calmness in jazz with fusion. The beginning of the song immediately establishes this tranquil and smooth atmosphere. The melody is calm and the accompaniment is nicely done and adds to the peaceful atmosphere. After this, the sound develops and changes with several chord progressions. The most prominent chord progression, right after the introduction, is creative and is ready to take the listener on a different journey than before. Although the well-layered rhythms and harmonic structure are quite impressive in this short journey, the melody and harmony develop back to its initial calm atmosphere. The special dynamics of this little part gives the song a unique impression. A faster tempo, different instrumentation methods, strong musical sentences make the song, more or less, shine in this section. After the sound is carried back to its initial melodic and harmonic structure, the relaxed, tranquil tone settles again. Sentences are repeated with the same calm and nice tone with the same smooth structures in this return. However, the sound is again pulled out to a different state. Here, the structures are well-built and nicely layered. The sentences are strong and good enough to keep the listener hooked during this melodic journey. After a journey led by distinctive chord progressions, World’s Fair ends with its well-written pattern, leaving the listener satisfied in its calm journey.
The piece has two distinct sections. The first section, which is the first 3 minutes and 10 seconds of the song, is a slow section. Featuring a slow, yet deep mood to the listener while the second section introduces more striking melodies which are presented by the guitar and the saxophone, playing a major part in the ending.
The piece starts with a very deep, gloomy mood. With the incorporation of drums, electro guitar, and keyboard, a somewhat dark atmosphere that you would feel while sitting in an empty park “at midnight”.
The gloomy start is followed by a saxophone section. The sax produces a mostly random, yet controlled melody that manages to portray the specific gloomy, emotional theme which is the highlight of this piece. That carries on to the second section of the piece, which is a more powerful section. At first, the guitar takes the lead from the sax in order to build the atmosphere for the ending and to sum up the piece while introducing new melodies and dashingly decorating them. This builds the climax point for the piece and it is succeeded by the repetition of the main melodic motive while fading into the silence, creating a smooth ending for the listener. Overall the two sections are well bonded in harmony that makes this piece a not-too-hard-on-the-ear and enjoyable experience.
The rock element is definitely available on this piece. The piano and guitar is used extensively and they create the feeling that you would get in a slow rock song. The intro is a guitar solo, which creates a gloomy, yet plain melody. The gloominess continues for a while, yet the song becomes more sophisticated as the piano and drums start to accompany the guitar. It’s important to mention that the guitar is the highlight of the piece for the first half though.
After the first two minutes, the piece changes its gloomy theme to a more dynamic one. It manages that so suddenly, yet fluently, that the listener manages to grab the new theme and adapt their mood accordingly.
The new theme resembles a mood that you would feel when trying to beat a boss in a video game, or when you group up with your friends and walk through a street. It’s the bad guys’ theme. However, one thing to notice is some essence of oriental music scales known as makams. As a frequent listener of oriental music, I definitely grab the essences of some orientalism within that 25-second section, however, it was followed by another change in theme
The last theme is the overall theme of the album. The somewhat cheerful, yet also somewhat gloomy theme would change your mood depending on your current emotions. Overall, I really liked the essence of orientalism and rock in this piece and believe that it definitely sets it apart from the other pieces in the album
The Book of Love
The last song of the album, The Book of Love, is a cover that Steve Cathedral Group managed to show their ability in harmony and consistency. The cover legendary Peter Gabriel’s piece, along with Fields of Gold, is simply invaluable for new jazz-rock cats. This is a piece in which pop music light jazz-rock structures are spotlighted the most. The song is certainly nice and dynamic in its light-fusion wave.
The song starts with a melody on the piano. The rhythmic structures are simple but effective and seem to be one of the most important elements in the song. Chord progressions are tested to some extent, and some of them seem to work well with the melody and the rhythm.
With this standard melodic and rhythmic approach, licks and melodic sentences are in the spotlight. Well-written licks and chord progressions are embellished with these fun, entertaining parts. These make the song enjoyable and fun to listen to, making the listener feel happy and content with what they listen to. In general, The Book of Love is well-layered and nicely written in its pop music perspective. Chord progressions loop again and again, while the pop sound builds and creates a joyful atmosphere.