Johannes Wallmann Quintet kicks off SLC’s Artist Music Series

Posted On August 27, 2015


The music of composer, pianist and band leader Johannes Wallmann has been shaped by the sounds of the many places he has called home.

During his 12 years in New York City and five years in Oakland, Calif., the German-born, Vancouver Island-raised and now Wisconsin-based pianist has established himself as a composer of complex yet highly engaging music.

Steeped in the jazz tradition, and informed by the music of John Coltrane and Duke Ellington, Wallmann’s “distinctive compositions seek to explore new territory, joining harmonic complexity with infectious groove and melodic introspection with playful exuberance,” according to his biography.

Manitowoc audiences can experience those distinctive sounds when The Johannes Wallmann Quintet performs at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 19 at the Franciscan Center for Music Education and Performance, located on the campus of Silver Lake College, 2406 S. Alverno Road, Manitowoc. 

This is the first of five concerts in Silver Lake College’s 2015-2016 Artist Music Series.

Wallmann’s many influences also can be heard in the music of his new quintet release, “The Town Musicians” (Fresh Sound New Talent), his fifth album as a leader. Another upcoming 2015 album release, “Always Something,” will feature Wallmann’s new 16-piece ensemble, The Sweet Minute Big Band.

As a composer and bandleader, Wallmann has released prior CDs including The Johannes Wallmann Quartet” (1997), Alphabeticity” (2003), Minor Prophets” (2007), which Cadence Magazine describes as a “glowing statement of rippling inventiveness,” and The Coasts” (2010), which featured Wallmann’s Brasstet.

Since 2012, Wallmann has been Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Music, where he is the inaugural holder of the John and Carolyn Peterson Chair in Jazz Studies. He leads the university’s jazz studies program and teaches jazz composition, improvisation, jazz piano and jazz ensembles, including the UW Jazz Orchestra.

He performs nationally and internationally with various groups and has recorded with many other artists.

The quintet features Wallmann on piano, Russ Johnson on trumpet, Eric Koppa on tenor saxophone, John Christensen on bass and Devin Drobka on drums.

Johnson recently returned to the Midwest as Director of Jazz Studies and Professor of Trumpet at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha after spending 23 years as a member of New York City’s jazz community. He also enjoys success on the Chicago jazz scene.

After residing and performing in Chicago for 10 years, Detroit native Koppa now calls Wisconsin home. He continues to perform throughout the Midwest and is a frequent guest jazz educator in Madison and a regular faculty conductor at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in Twin Lake, Mich.

Since moving to Madison in 1999 — after studying and playing in Boston, Texas and San Francisco — Christensen has played with numerous local groups. In 2012, he embarked on a new journey by forming his own group, The Landscapers, and began touring with The Deconunisms and Unnecessary Bells.

Drobka is a freelance musician who teaches at the West End Conservatory in Milwaukee. Since returning to his hometown of Milwaukee in 2013, Drobka has become the first-call drummer for many top Wisconsin and touring jazz artists, with whom he regularly performs at Milwaukee’s Jazz Estate, Madison’s Tempest Bar and The Fountain, and at many other venues and festivals throughout southern Wisconsin and Illinois.

Tickets to the Wallmann concert are $18 for adults, $12 for seniors (ages 65 and older), $5 for students (ages 5 to 18) and free for children (age 4 and younger). A season pass for the entire season is $80.

For ticket information, please visit the Capitol Civic Centre box office at 913 S. Eighth St., Manitowoc, call (920) 683-2184 or visit

(Photo by Michael R. Anderson)