Schalk proves himself as a composer, forgoes covers and widens quite simply the choice of modern standards as demonstrated on his second recording “The Second Third Man” featuring eleven-time Grammy-winner Michael Brecker.
“Space Messengers” features an impressive lineup of notable musicians, including Dave Kikoski on piano, Andy McKee on bass and Ian Froman on drums (Schalk's working band since 2001). The CD received enthusiastic praise from journalists, musical peers and fans alike.
The sound of the Austrian guitarist, resident in New York since 1997, conveys tender warmth that is always present in spite of high speeds in bebop as well as funky pieces. Schalk's compositions are pleasantly complex, rich in contrasts, nevertheless resolutely intended in a narrative cantability that creates fertile room for expression with his musicians. Dave Kikoski, the prominent pianist shapes with his playing, open in all directions, a congenial part to Schalk’s imaginative improvisations.
All About Jazz writes: On Space Messengers, Austrian musician Wolfgang Schalk proves to be an explosively inventive guitarist and a gifted, challenging composer. Backed by an alert, vibrant rhythm section, he digs deep into eight original compositions, improvising with considerable intelligence, passion, and swing.
In the CD booklet, Schalk cites Pat Martino as one of his primary influences, and indeed, the Austrian possesses a clarion, ringing guitar sound that recalls Martino. Yet Schalk is very much his own man. He plays with an attractive lyricism, enabling some of his phrases to float over the rhythm section, and one of his most intriguing strategies is a seemingly effortless tendency to insert unexpected chordal passages into a single-note line. To my ears, his finest improvising comes on the rockish “Frame Up.” Playing what sounds like an amplified acoustic guitar, Schalk tears into the changes with relentless power and soaring invention.
Yet, as good as these guitar solos are (and they are very, very good), the compositions themselves are what first catch the ear. Schalk creates impressive structures for improvisation, and he fits each and every structure with a hip, catchy melody. If other musicians pick up on these tunes, every single one of them has the potential to become a jazz standard.
Of course, this album's success is also rooted in the exemplary rhythm section. This is a working band whose empathy is clearly audible. They flow and dance through the intricacies of Schalk's compositions, and they swing with grace and power. Andy McKee's booming bass sound is an asset, and drummer Ian Froman keeps things interesting. Put simply, pianist Dave Kikoski is in excellent form throughout. Highly recommended. - All About Jazz (Marc Mayers)
“Space Messengers is not Wolfgang Schalk's attempt to explore free-song structures, but his quartet often approaches time in a manner that implies pulse instead of hammering a solid tempo. The guitarist plays with warm, languid tone, but peels off quick licks that avoid predictability... the rhythm has gone through elastic transitions--speeding up and slowing down while the melody remains in one tempo--that recall the flexibility of the 1960s Miles Davis Quintet.” - Jazz Times (Mike Shanley)
“Wolfgang Schalk is a tasty improviser. He has a strong Pat Metheny influence in his phrasing, articulations and sound... Schalk's writings are modern harmonically, with melody being one of his strong points... Modern jazz guitar playing and writing are well represented on this CD by the capable hands of Wolfgang Schalk.” - Just Jazz Guitar (Paul Colombo)
“Like older guitarists such as Jim Hall and Pat Martino and younger players such as Adam Rogers and Kurt Rosenwinkel, Schalk clearly deserves greater recognition for his own soulful articulation and deep skills... reminiscent of Wes Montgomery and Grant Green. But the music is in no way nostalgic and shows the jazz guitar art form can still be vibrant without the use of modern techniques or gadgetry.” - All About Jazz (Mark F. Turner)
“Playing in a modern fluid style... Mr. Schalk, who is from Austria, is one of the best jazz guitarists on the US scene (he lives in the US). His latest CD, Space Messengers, ... is the find of the year, a vital straight ahead record that plows new territory for the guitar. Heartily recommended, and I've been playing jazz on the radio for 30 years.”
- John Motavalli--WPKN Radio, Connecticut.
“With his soulful playing, Schalk is easily one of Europe's best guitarists.” - Die Presse
Wolfgang Schalk - guitars
Dave Kikoski - piano
Andy McKee - bass
Ian Froman - drums
All music composed by Wolfgang Schalk
Produced by Wolfgang Schalk
Recorded in analog at Water Music, Hoboken NJ
Engineer: Reinhard Buchta