Tightrope Dancer

10/10/2023Brazilian Flutist Mariana Zwarg & German Pianist Johannes von Ballestrem Release Nimble Collaborative LP

Anybody here scared of heights? Not ones to suffer from vertigo ourselves, we still might not be the first to volunteer to partake in some acrobatic tightrope act in lofty heights. Casting their musical line, one end fastened to the summit of Rio de Janeiro's Mount Corcovado with its mighty Christ the Redeemer statue, the other end tied to Berlin's iconic Fernsehturm, Brazilian flutist Mariana Zwarg (the goddaughter of a certain Hermeto Pascoal) and Berlin pianist Johannes von Ballestrem deliver a daring double act of their own device. Balancing two distinct musical universes and working together from afar, the two artists perform a nimble routine that is anything but ordinary. 

"Tightrope Dancer" is the title to their well-balanced, self-released ten-track collaborative full-length, that would appear to be the logical continuation of them working and touring together as part of Mariana's Sexteto Universal. The sextet's debut album was released in 2020 and it was during lockdown, that Mariana and Johannes – one in Rio, the other in Berlin – went on to elaborate on their plans to go duo. Stuck at home, but already familiar with one another's musicality and virtuosic creativity, the two began working on compositions of their own, exchanging ideas and tying up loose ends. Once air travel resumed, they were ready to go and, with the support of a Goethe Institute scholarship, brought this project to fruition. 

Combining Brazilian rhythms and temperament with a jazz mindset and penchant for improvisation, "Tightrope Dancer" is quite the feat. Piano and flute share the stage in a breathtaking display of expansive versatility and melodic nonchalance to create a thing of beauty. Their thrilling interplay is marked by witty call-and-response sequences as well as mesmerising solo runs on tracks both heartfelt and thoroughly engaging. This album is a genuinely breathtaking affair and we dare say universally enjoyable, vertigo or not. 

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom