“I had just picked up my visa the day before Trump said no Europeans are allowed,” Lambert says. “They just said ‘here’s your visa, you can go!’ And then I woke up the next day and Donald Trump said I wasn’t allowed to go. [laughs]” Pianist and musician Lambert (he feels ‘composer’ is far too lofty a term) isn’t referring to anything as controversial as the American President/reality TV star’s travel ban on predominantly Islamic countries, but rather the forced travel ban due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The masked musician had been due to head to the States for his debut headline tour.
While of course a disappointing state of affairs for Lambert, it nonetheless shows the surging progression of his career over the last few years. Born in Hamburg and based in Berlin, he’s gone from a virtual unknown to snapping on the heels of neoclassical peers such as Nils Frahm and Ólafur Arnalds.
Looking at Lambert’s London shows alone, his debut performance saw him at the tiny Servant Jazz Quaters in East London, and in October he performed a landmark concert at the more opulent King’s Place in the absolute hub that is Kings Cross. Now with four solo albums to his name, he’s just released a new EP, the fittingly titled Alone II.
It’s also worth mentioning Lambert’s most salient feature: in all performances and promotional material, he wears an imposing Sardinian mask with protruding horns, snout and symbolic detail.
He looks a little like a demonic bull, a wonderful juxtaposition with his very tongue-in-cheek live shows. I like to think he’s wearing the mask now as we chat online. “Yes, I always wear it,” he says. “Even when I’m cooking or going to the bathroom.”
Lambert picks up on me referring to him as a composer, so we get chatting about why he doesn’t feel it’s the right noun for him.
“I have some trouble with these exaggerated, high-culture terms that everyone in this modern classical world uses,” he says. “I come from a different background — I always played in bands on different instruments. I mainly see myself as an instrumental songwriter. Jazz and pop culture have always been my main influences. So it would feel weird to call myself a (puts on a posh voice) composer.”