Piano Night (Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic VII) – So Much Fun – A Review

Three Great Pianists

Wow. An album that combines three very talented Jazz pianists.

I’ve shared my admiration for the German pianist Michael Wollny several times (see here, here, and here for example), and have also mentioned him in my 25 Essential Jazz albums.

I’ve also already written about the Finnish pianist Iiro Rantala previously (see my review of Anyone with a Heart here).

Leszek Mozdzer from Poland is the only artist I haven’t written about yet, but his album Komeda is very much worth checking out.

As regular readers of my blog will have seen, I was quite a regular visitor at the Berlin Philharmonic concert hall, but I’m quite sad I missed this particular pan-European concert evening that was recorded live in 2016.

 

Leszek Mozdzer, Iiro Rantala, Michael Wollny – Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic VII – Piano Night (ACT 2017)

Leszek Modzdzer Iiro Rantala Michael Wollny Jazz at Berlin Philharmonic VIII Piano Night 24/48 ACT 2017

Let me start with the highlight of this album: Chick Corea´s La Fiesta, from his legendary Return to Forever album. I’m very sure Corea would endorse this fantastically energetic live version. There is one Fender Rhodes electric piano involved, similar to the sound of Corea´s famous 1970s band. It is hard to tell just from listening who plays the Fender, but the booklet makes it clear: the three actually take turns!

Highlight number two is another Jazz standard, Gershwin´s Summertime, in a fantastic version.

But don’t expect the other songs to be of any lower level, from the very first second you’ll get absorbed by three outstanding musicians who clearly have a lot of fun together. Some of the previous tracks are originals. Rantala contributes Freedom, and Mozdzer She Said She Was A Painter.

If you like energetic piano jazz, this album is highly recommended.

My rating: 4 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz) and here (Prostudiomasters).

If you don’t like downloads, you’ll need to go with the 180g vinyl pressing, as this album is not available as a regular CD.

Michael Wollny Klangspuren (Live in Hamburg) – A Review

How did I miss this?

There is a live Wollny trio album out there and I only find out about it a year later. How is this possible? My bad.

Especially after I’ve attended his concert in Basel just some weeks after this album was released (see my concert review here).

But well, better late than never.

Michael Wollny Trio In Concert: Klangspuren – Live in Hamburg (ACT 2016)

I’m a big Wollny fan (thanks to an old friend from highschool who initially introduced me to him). See for example my reviews of his album Nachtfahrten, or my mention of one of his previous live albums in my 9 Outstanding Live Jazz albums. His album Weltentraum was also mentioned in my 25 Essential Jazz albums.

Michael Wollny Trio In Concert Klangspuren Live in Hamburg ACT 2016

 

 

 

This album is very close in spirit (and material) to the live concert I saw at Kaserne Basel in 2016. Given that it is to a large extend based on his Nocturne-style album Nachtfahrten, it has a lot of long, quiet, but intense passages. My favorite song is White Moon.

Wollny plays with his usual trio of Christian Weber and Eric Schaefer.

But don’t worry, the lion Wollny is occasionally let out of his cage for one of his more improvising elements.

Looking back at his recent studio albums, I rated Weltentraum a full 5 star, while Nachtfahrten was still nice, but only received a 4 star rating.

When we get to live albums, I´d suggest you get one of the Weltentraum live albums first, but this album is still very much worth having.

Wollny remains one of the most important Jazz pianists of our days.

My rating: 4 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz) and here.

FYI, If you prefer to buy it as a physical album you also get a collectors edition that includes a DVD.

Michael Wollny Trio Live at Kaserne Basel – May 7, 2016 – A Review

Michael Wollny

I already wrote Wollny twice. Most recently about his most recent release, Nachtfahrten, which I really liked, and I have one of his live albums in my list of the 25 Essential Jazz Albums.

He is probably one of the most creative jazz pianists out there these days. Unfortunately, in spite of being extremely popular in his home country, he’s still not as well known in the rest of the world. I really hope this will change.

A Jazz Piano Trio Concert Weekend

I hadn’t really planned on being in Switzerland this weekend, but in the end, concert-wise, it turned out rather a great place to be. I had the extreme pleasure of seeing Michael Wollny’s Trio Live yesterday in Basel, and will be seeing GoGo Penguin live tonight in Zurich (see my review of their latest album here).

Michael Wollny Trio Live At Jazz Festival Basel, July 7, 2016 – Nachtfahrten

I must admit, I initially had some hesitations about a live concert of his most recent album Nachtfahrten. Although I liked it a lot, it is an overall rather quiet, nocturnal album, and I wasn’t sure if this is music that would be well adapted to a live concert.

I shouldn’t have worried. While he played several songs of Nachtfahrten, only the title track, which he played as a great encore, was as slow and meditative as the album.

During pretty much the entire rest of the concert, the trio was truly on fire. Wollny was in great shape, you could really see how physical this was for him (I was lucky to be all the way up front in third row, so had an excellent view). This is a musician that truly lives his music.

Michael Wollny Trio Christian Weber Eric Schaefer Live At Kaserne Basel July 07 2016

A special compliment needs to go to Eric Schäfer on drums. He put so much energy into his solos, that at some point a piece of his drum kit got catapulted into the audience. And the way he kept the groove really was essential to the spellbinding atmosphere of this concert.

Michael Wollny Trio Christian Weber Eric Schaefer Live At Kaserne Basel July 07 2016

Christian Weber, the local Swiss addition to the trio, was in great shape as well. The interplay between him and Wollny was just outstanding.

Michael Wollny Trio Christian Weber Eric Schaefer Live At Kaserne Basel July 07 2016

The trio also played several songs from the previous album, Weltentraum. Actually, the concert was special in a way that the trio didn’t only play individual songs, but actually one song merged into an improvisation seamlessly blending over into the next song. The audience barely got any occasion to clap (so when they did, the applause was over enthusiastic).

Michael Wollny Trio Christian Weber Eric Schaefer Live At Kaserne Basel July 07 2016

If you ever get the possibility to see these amazing artists live, don’t miss it. His Weltentraum Live Album gives you a good idea what to expect.

Luckily, this concert got recorded by Swiss radio (to be played somewhere in summer), so I hopefully will be able to relive this great experience again. And maybe this even makes it into an album. Fingers crossed.

 

Eeriness or How To Summarize Michael Wollny’s New Release in One Word

Michael Wollny

I’ve already praised his latest live album in my 25 essential Jazz albums. Michael Wollny, 37, is certainly one of the greatest talents in Jazz Germany has to offer these days.

So I was very glad when I was pointed to his latest album he just released, Nachtfahrten (literally, night rides or night drives).

Really, you’re going to say, my last post was about Chopin’s Nocturnes, and here comes another one about music of (or for) the night? Well, this wasn’t on purpose.

Nachtfahrten

In any case, when you listen to this album, think much more Debussy’s nocturnes, or Scriabin, than Chopin. There is none of the peacefulness of the Chopin around, the word that comes to mind listening to this new album is the beautiful English word “eery”, actually, you never feel fully safe listening to this album.

Michael Wollny Nachtfahrten Christian Weber Eric Schaefer ACT 2015

Where does this eeriness come from? Well, very slow tempi, dark harmonics, a very light touch by Eric Schaefer on drums, but all this doesn’t even come close to describing the feelings you’ll get from this album.

The track titles like Nachtmahr, a rather unusual German translation of nightmare,  Feu Follet, French for will-o’-the-wisp, Marion (named after Marion Crane, the blonde victim of the Psycho shower scene), or Metzengerstein, the name of Edgar Allen Poe’s first novel, don’t really help. Well, you get the idea.

There are some slightly lighter titles like Ellen, which is one of the few occasions where the trio gets to show that they are able to swing really well, but even these don’t break the overall dark mood of the album.

Several journalists have asked the question whether this is Jazz, Pop, or contemporary classical. Well, honestly, who cares. It is impressive music, full of a strange and irritating energy, that will draw you into the music. This is anything but background music for a cocktail party. It needs your full attention (and dimmed lights).

My rating: 4 stars

Two videos to give you an example, one with Michael commenting on the album, unfortunately in German only.

You can find it here (Qobuz) or here (Highresaudio)

Musicophile’s 25 Essential Jazz Albums – Part II

Following up to part I of my 25 Essential Jazz albums, here are the entries 13-25. Again no ranking implied in the numbers, this is just a list of albums I think everybody should have heard, and to give you a good understanding of what it is I really like in Jazz.

13. Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Moanin (1958)

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Moanin Blue Note 24 192

Well, my entire mini-series on the Jazz Messengers’s spin-offs wouldn’t have been a series without this group. I’m not sure why I haven’t written about this album yet, but I eventually will.

14: Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands – Here Comes Charlie (1961)

Ella Fitzgerald Clap Hands Here Comes Charlie Verve 1961 24 192

Ella again is somebody with so many good albums to choose from. Just to give an example, the Ella and Louis series has been recommended everywhere, and I concur. The live recording Mack the Knife or her many songbook releases are also excellent.

So why this one? Well, purely subjectively again, it was one of my first I ever owned, and it’s got the outstanding 5 star track Cry Me A River.

15. Wayne Shorter: Adam’s Apple (1966)

Wayne Shorter Adam's Apple Blue Note

Already reviewed here.

16. Duke Ellington: Money Jungle (1963)

Duke Ellington Money Jungle

Duke Ellington obviously had a huge influence on Jazz, also as a composer of many standards. I’m not really into big band, but luckily he also did some albums with smaller crews, like the famous Duke Ellington & John Coltrane album, or this one, with Charles Mingus and Max Roach. I mean, what could go wrong if you combine these giants? This by the way has the best version ever of the great standard Caravan.

17. Stan Getz and Kenny Baron – People Time (1992)

Stan Getz Kenny Barron People Time The Complete Recordings

This is another example of a large box of “last concerts” recordings similar to the Bill Evans Consecration I wrote about in Part I of this post. This concert was recorded in Copenhagen very close to Stan Getz too early death.

Often duos in Jazz lack something, not here. This one is just beautiful, and a pleasure to listen to. If you don’t want to go for the full 6 box Complete Recordings, there’s also a 2 box compilation.

18. Oliver Nelson: The Blues And The Abstract Truth (1961)

Oliver Nelson Blues And The Abstract Truth 24 96

Oliver Nelson in a way is the One Hit Wonder of jazz. Or could you name any other album from him (with the possible exception of less known and less interesting part II follow-up with a different cast)?

In any case, just look at the line-up here, Evans!, Chambers!, Hubbard!, Haynes!, Dolphy! and you know you’re onto something. One of my favorite Impulse albums.

19. Oscar Peterson: Exclusively For My Friends (1968)

Oscar Peterson Exclusively For My Friends MPS 24 88

You could nominate many Oscar Peterson albums here. He is really one of the best pianists of all times. However, this set recorded in the cosy Black Forest in the personal studio of Hans Georg Brunner-Schwer, is probably one of the best, and most intimate. This album has recently been remastered from the original tapes.

20. Ray Brown: Summer Wind – Life At The Loa

Ray Brown Trio Summer Wind Live At The Loa Concord

You cannot talk about Oscar Peterson without mentioning Ray Brown, his legendary bassist. Ray has recorded several outstanding albums with the combo of Jeff Hamilton on drums and Gene Harris on the piano. To quote one of the tracks: It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing. Well, this one’s got plenty.

21. Diana Krall: The Girl In The Other Room

Diana Krall The Girl in The Other Room 24 192

Talking about Jeff Hamilton, he also plays on this one.

But now you may ask me: what, 25 albums, only 3 vocal jazz among them, and you chose Krall vs. all the other alternatives? Well yes, you could argue about the choice of Krall in general, but not this album. This to me is the best she ever did, by far. The influence of her husband, Elvis Costello, on the songs is clearly there, and this is the first time in my opinion that she truly moves beyond the (very high-class) cocktail bar jazz of her previous albums. Unfortunately, she’s never again reached this level of musical depth since (I personally didn’t like her last two albums, Wallflower and Glad Rag Doll).

22. Grant Green – Idle Moments (1965)

Grant Green Idle Moments 24 192 Blue Note

I’m usually not a big fan of guitar jazz, but the nearly 15 minutes of the title track of this album with so many outstanding musicians, including Joe Henderson (see my post on him here) justifies the including here. I guarantee there’s not one minute of boredom in this slowly developing and evolving track.

23. Michael Wollny Trio – Weltentraum (2014)

OK, so ECM, the great German jazz label, got their share of albums here. Let’s make sure we add another great German jazz label, ACT.

Michael Wollny is one of the great German talents of today, and both the 2014 album Weltentraum as well as this live version are creative, inspired, and fun to listen to.

Michael Wollny Trio Weltentraum Live ACT

24. Alboran Trio – Near Gale (2008)

Alboran Trio Near Gale

Another ACT album. The Italian Alboran Trio seems to have completely disappeared since this 2008 album, and it’s equally great predecessor, Meltemi (2006). What a pity, this is again to me the epitome of a piano trio album.

25. Keith Jarrett: Solo Concerts Bremen-Lausanne (1973)

Keith Jarrett Solo Concerts Bremen Lausann

Yes, I’m cheating. I said in my own rules only one album per artist.

Well, but first of all I make the rules on my own blog, and then this blog has Keith Jarrett in the subtitle. I couldn’t walk away from this without a Jarrett Solo Concerto, given that this was the topic of my very first blog that started this entire adventure entry here.

I could have chosen the Köln Concert, and yes that is a must have for everybody. But so are the Sun Bear Concerts, Bremen Lausanne, The Carnegie Hall Concert or pretty much any other of his solo albums for that matter.

I still have the original vinyl of the excellent Bremen Lausanne, and it is basically just a placeholder for his entire solo works. If I have enough time, I’ll try eventually to review in detail all Keith Jarrett solo concerts.

So, that’s it folks, looking forward to your feedback!

Download sources:

Moanin: here (Qobuz)

Here comes Charlie: here (Qobuz)

People Time: here (Qobuz)

Oliver Nelson: here (Qobuz)

Oscar Peterson: here (Highresaudio)

Ray Brown: here (HDTracks)

Diana Krall: here (Qobuz)

Chick Corea: here (Qobuz)

Bremen-Lausanne: here (Qobuz)

Michael Wollny: here (Qobuz)

Alboran Trio: here (Qobuz)