Markus Burger/Jan von Klewitz

Spiritual Standards, Vols. 1, 2

Markus Burger, a German jazz pianist who recently moved to Sacramento, recorded these two duet albums in his home country with soprano saxophonist Jan von Klewitz. Both discs were released by Jazzline, a German/Dutch label, the first in 1998 and the follow-up, subtitled Secunda, last year. True to title, these aren’t anthologies of bordello music. Instead, they express a fresh re-infusion of spirit into straight-backed Christian hymns whose sanctity has become pew-hardened over the years, opening them up and airing them out with a contemplative approach similar to chamber jazz on the ECM label. Both discs also contain original material; Secunda also includes a helping of Bach’s music—which loses its precise sense of order and balance in favor of Burger’s spatially expanded chords and more open sense of time. Like John Fahey, Burger and von Klewitz make devotional music anyone can appreciate.