GoGo Penguin Latest Album A Humdrum Star – A Totally Subjective Review

What is Jazz?

The question of what actually constitutes Jazz is as old as the music itself. In the 1970s, Jazz tried to cross-over into rock creating subgenera such as Jazz-rock and Fusion, and also some singer-songwriter pop music in the style of Norah Jones or Katie Melua could often be found in the “Jazz” boxes of your average record store.

And obviously, one of the most important movements of the last 3 decades, electronic music in all its ways, has had an influence on Jazz as well. The late Esbjörn Svensson was one of the first to bring electronic elements into the Jazz trio, and many have followed since, blurring the lines even further.

GoGo Penguin

Gogo Penguin is a young Jazz trio from Manchester, that, while using the traditional piano / bass / drums combination, is influenced very heavily by electronic music in the style of Massive Attack, especially on the rythmic side, but at the same time clearly draws inspiration from the minimalist movement.

I’ve praised their previous album, Man Made Object (their first release on BlueNote), here, even naming it as one of my top 5 Jazz albums of 2016, after having seen them live at Moods Zurich in 2016.

So I had really high expectations when they recently released their latest album.

A Humdrum Star (BlueNote 2018)

I purchased A Humdrum Star blindly the moment it came out, and was expecting to write a review pretty soon afterwards. However, its now been out for 2 weeks and I still hadn’t written the review.

Gogo Penguin A Humdrum Star BlueNote 2018 24/88


Basically, I wasn’t very impressed after the first couple of listening sessions, but was really hoping this album would grow on me. Now I can unfortunately safely report, it didn’t. Let me make it clear, this is very good music from very talented musicians.

However, it simply doesn’t work for me. Is it the even increasing influence of minimalism, or electronica? Is it maybe a decreasing focus on the melodic vs. the rhythmic elements? Some songs feel a bit more stuck in loops and patterns than before.

So in a nutshell, this is not my album of choice from them. I recently revisited their earlier albums Fanfares and v2.0, just to double check, and A Humdrum Star is personally my least favorite of their discography.

I still very much suggest you check this out, your conclusion may be very much different to mine.

I´ll make sure revisit this occasionally, and maybe it will grow on me over a longer period, but so far I´ll rather go back to Man Made Object.

My rating: 3 stars (objectively and musically speaking, this is at least 4 stars, but as mentioned, it doesn’t “stick” for me, hence this more neutral rating)

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




A Duo of Jazz Piano and Organ? Seriously? Yes!!!!

The Jazz Organ

I haven’t written a lot about the organ in Jazz yet. This is because I don’t very often listen to it.

I mean, there are some legendary album’s like Jimmy Smith’s The Cat, which I love, but in total I have less than 15 jazz organ albums in my library (which contains 7-8,000 albums).

Michel Petrucciani

However, why haven’t I written about Michel Petrucciani yet? This French genius on the piano?

He was born with a rare genetic disease which lead to very brittle bones and a very short body height. But when you see him on the piano, you can be nothing but amazed:


I guess the reason why I didn’t write about him yet is because some of his later albums went into a certain style I didn’t necessarily like that much.

But there is one album I’ve treasured for two decades now, that combines a Jazz organ and Michel Petrucciani, and guess what, nothing else!

Conférence de Presse (Dreyfus 1994)

This album was recorded at the Petit Journal Montparnasse, a Paris Jazz club I used to go to when I lived in Paris years ago. But unfortunately I wasn’t at this particular concert, which is very much of a pity.

Michel Petrucciani Eddy Louiss Conférence de Presse Dreyfus 1994

But let me introduce the second musician first: Eddy Louis. He’s a French pianist, but better known for his organ. He played with Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie and any other Jazz greats.

I’m pretty sure you don’t have many duo albums of an organ and piano in your collection. So why should you have this one?

Very simply, because it swings like hell.

You already get an idea from the Youtube clip above about what Petrucciani can do with a classic like Caravan. Now add an organ to that, and you get a performance you won’t forget that quickly.

And there’s another true gem on this album when it comes to standards: Summertime. Obviously, nothing beats the legendary performance of Ella & Louis, but this really is an extremely entertaining version.

Check it out!

My rating: 4 stars

Unfortunately, the album is not that easy to find individually.

Qobuz has it as part of a 5 CD box: http://www.qobuz.com/gb-en/album/conference-de-presse-both-world-solo-flamingo-trio-in-tokyo-michel-petrucciani/3460503694026

And you find it on Amazon, often used: https://www.amazon.com/Conférence-Presse-Michel-Petrucciani/dp/B004A3INP2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1477118700&sr=8-1&keywords=petrucciani+conference+de+presse