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.

Mare Nostrum II – Paolo Fresu, Richard Galliano, Jan Lundgren

Who says the European Union doesn’t work?

On this album, we have an Italian (from Sardinia), a French, and a Swede, playing together. Isn’t this what the European Union was all about, before it became a bureaucracy?

I’ve already seen Paolo Fresu and Richard Galliano live. The former in a beautiful duo concert with Ralph Towner on Guitar (as recorded on the beautiful ECM album Chiaroscuro); and Galliano many years ago in a fantastic gig with Michel Portal on clarinet (check out their common album Blow Up to get an idea). Lundgren I only know from some albums I own (and like).

The three already played together on the first album, Mare Nostrum, which  was released in 2007. Now, many years later we get the successor album:

Mare Nostrum II (ACT 2016)

Mare Nostrum is Latin for “our sea” and was the Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea.

Paolo Fresu Richard Galliano Jan Lundgren Mare Nostrum II (24/88) ACT Music

We surely have a rather unusual combination of instruments here. Fresu often plays a Miles Davis-style dampened trumpet, which matches Galliano’s accordeon surprisingly well. Lundgren on piano plays his usually meditative style.

While these aren’t instruments you’d spontaneously assemble into a trio, this album again (like it’s predecessor) works surprisingly well.

My favorite tracks

I have two favorite tracks on this album.

No. 1 is Aurora.This is music for sitting on the deck of a sailing boat somewhere on the Mediterranean Sea with a nice chilled bottle of Rosé and feeling the warm breeze on your skin (sorry for this cheesy analogy, but I’m currently planning my summer vacation in Sardinia, so my imagination probably runs a bit wild…).

No. 2 is the beautiful cover of Satie’s Gnossienne, one of my favorite tracks by Eric Satie. Who know this simple composition could swing?

The only thing that this album could use is a bit more variety, we’re getting a lot of slow sentimental tracks, but I’d have loved at least one or two more uptempo songs, like Leklat.

But beyond this little complaint, this is beautiful music that is able to transport you elsewhere; and just enjoy the moment.

My rating: 4 stars

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

Esbjörn Svensson Trio Live In Hamburg

I’ve received quite a bit of feedback on my posts on my 25 essential Jazz albums. Many of them were asking why artist X, Y or Z wasn’t listed. Most of these had a point.

The Esbjörn Svensson Trio

One example is the Esbjörn Svensson Trio (e.s.t.). Why didn’t I list it? if we do a brief history of (no, not time, come on guys, I’m not Stephen Hawking) the Jazz Piano Trio, from its early starts in the 1950s with the like of Art Tatum, Errol Garner, and Oscar Peterson, I see three major steps in the development:

Bill Evans took this art form to a much higher intellectual level, and made sure all 3 musician are true partners. Keith Jarrett took over when Bill unfortunately left us and dominated the art for for twenty years, until a bunch of Scandinavians around Esbjörn Svensson came, and brought this art form to the 21st century, and introducing it to audiences way beyond the traditional Jazz audience, as there is a lot of rock and electronic influence.

So why the heck haven’t I reviewed any album of this trio yet (although to be fair I mention it regularly)? The answer is easy, e..t. is a bit too much out of the box for me on most of their albums (I’m a guy who’s extremely comfortable IN the box!). There’s usually some “craziness” going on, and quite often just a bit too much for my personal taste. That said, I fully recognize their importance. Unfortunately we lost an outstanding musician when Esbjörn died in a diving accident in 2008.

 Live in Hamburg

Esbjörn Svensson Trio Live in Hamburg

This 2007 live album (released on ACT) from a late 2006 concert (in Hamburg obviously) is just outstanding, and shows e.s.t. at their peak.

There is still some craziness ongoing (e.g. Definition of A Dog), but overall it is tame enough for my ears to really enjoy it,. And then, there is just tons of energy, including outstanding 17:39 minute long tracks like Dolores In A Shoestand. There is not a minute of boredom. This is two hours of pure adrenaline!

My rating: 5 stars

You can get it here (Qobuz), or go for the high quality 4 vinyl edition