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

Recommended: Julia Hülsmann Trio – Imprint

The Jazz Piano Trio

I’ve said it before, we really do live in the Golden Age of the Jazz Piano trio (actually, I’ve even started a discussion thread on this prior to starting this blog, see here (http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f15-music-general/are-we-living-golden-age-jazz-piano-trio-18603/)

Women in Jazz?

Are we living in the Golden Age for female Jazz musicians? Probably not yet. Traditionally, in Jazz women were pretty much set to the role of singer. If they could play the piano, even better (e.g. Nina Simone, Diana Krall, or more recently Sarah McKenzie), all fine, but go find a female instrumentalist, and you’ll have a much harder time. Carla Bley, Hiromi, Maria Schneider, and that’s were my list (from memory) ends.

Hold on, there is one more (actually 2-3 more, watch this space for future articles):

Julia Hülsmann

Julia Hülsmann, German, is one of these exceptions (and actually, has studies with Maria Schneider in the past).

Her regular trio is featuring two other excellent musicians, Mark Muellbauer on bass and Heinrich Köbberling on drums.

I discovered her during the release concert of her album Imprint at Moods in Zurich, back in 2011, and this album to this day remains my favorite one of her.

Since then I’ve also seen her play live with Theo Bleckmann music from her latest release of Kurt Weill music (to be reviewed another time) at Nochtspeicher in Hamburg.

Julia Hülsmann Trio: Imprint (ECM 2011)

Julia Hülsmann Trio Imprint ECM 2011

Imprint is her second album on ECM after the equally exciting The End Of Summer. 

My favorite tracks are Grand Canyon, with a great rhythmic drive,  Zahlen bitte, which starts with a great drum solo by Köbberling, and Ulmenwall. The album is typical ECM house style, very lyrical, and very well recorded.

My rating: 4 stars

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

Know What I Mean? What Great Album!

Blogging – but about what?

I suppose every blogger knows this question: what should I write about on my blog?

Well, you could say with several thousand albums in my personal library and 30M tracks in my Qobuz streaming subscription, finding material shouldn’t really be a problem. And it actually isn’t too much of an issue.

The harder question is often: What do I write about right now?

I often get inspired by either recent releases, by reading the specialized press, or by something I just happened to play on my stereo recently.

However, tonight I was a bit clueless. I knew it was time for another blog post, but didn’t really feel inspired about anything in particular.

Then the radio on my car trip back from work came to my rescue, as they played a track from the album below. I immediately knew I had to write about it.

So here we go:

Cannonball Adderley

Julian “Cannonball” Adderley is probably one of the more underestimated saxophone players. He never go the reputation of a Coltrane, Bird, or even Sonny Rollins. That said, he’s done some amazing albums. Not only he played on Kind Of Blue (see my post on my 25 essential Jazz albums), but also on Something Else from 1958 which has the best version ever of Autumn Leaves on it. Not to mention many other great albums, with or without Miles Davis.

Know What I Mean – Cannonball Adderley With Bill Evans (Riverside 1961)

Adderley and Bill Evans already played together on the above-mentioned legendary album Kind Of Blue in 1959. Two years later, on the Riverside label this time, they work together again, without Miles Davis this time. You have Percy Heath on bass, and Connie Kay on drums.

And the mood is completely different to Kind Of Blue‘s intimacy, this is swinging Jazz that will make you smile immediately.

Cannonball Adderley with Bill Evans Know What I Mean Riverside

You start with the great Bill Evans standard Waltz For Debbie, a song I personally cannot get enough of. And this is probably one of the best versions out there, with Adderley really swinging like crazy.

Toy, a Clifford Jordan original, is another great uptempo track.

And then there’s the title track (which depending on which release you get, you may have several takes to compare), which starts as a beautiful ballad (Kind Of Blue‘s particular mood is popping up again), but soon turns back to softly swinging.

This is mainstream jazz (in the positive sense of the word) at its best.

My rating: 4 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz).

Iiro Rantala String Trio: Anyone With A Heart – Review

A String Trio Playing Jazz? Seriously?

Yes I know, this is a very unusual combination. You get Iiro Rantala from Finland, formerly with the Trio Töykeät, Adam Baldych on Violin, and Asja Valcic on Cello.

But don’t get scared, this is worth exploring!

Iro Rantala String Trio: Anyone With A Heart (ACT 2014)

Well, first of all, is this Jazz? Honestly, no idea. Rantala has studied not only Jazz, but also classical music, and is a proclaimed Bach fan. In any case, it is fascinating music, all composed by Rantala himself.

Iiro Rantala String Trio Anyone With A Heart Adam Baldych Asja Valcic Act 2014

 

One of my favorite tracks is Freedom, inspired by Jonathan Franzen’s novel (which I never really liked by the way). Here he dampens the piano to get a very particular sound. The strings even have oriental elements in their playing. All this is driven by a constant groove, that pulls you in and lets you sit on the edge of your chair. Here’s a video of Rantala performing a solo version of Freedom in his own place, to give you an idea what to expect:

 

My other favorite is the ballad Alone, that prominently features the beautiful sound of Valcic’s cello.

Again, this track probably isn’t what you’d call typical Jazz. I couldn’t care less. This is music that escapes traditional categories and genres, but is beautifully played by musicians who are in it with all their heart.

This is worth exploring if you’re looking for something different.

My rating: 4 stars

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

GoGo Penguin’s Man Made Object – The True Successor to EST?

Esbjörn Svensson Trio

I’ve previously written about the Esbjörn Svensson Trio (EST) and their essential role of bringing the Jazz Piano Trio to the 21st century.

However, with the untimely death of Esbjörn Svensson in 2008, I’ve been wondering who would become a worthy successor.

I’ve written about a number of piano trios already, and there is certainly no lack of exciting new trios around. However, none of the trios I’ve written about got close to the particularity of the EST combining elements outside of Jazz into the art form, and having a focus on rhythms that come more from pop, rock, and electro. Well, maybe the US trio The Big Plus, or the Swiss Rusconi (that I both have yet to write about).

However, there is one trio that probably get’s closest to the originality of EST.

GoGo Penguin

Manchester-based GoGo Penguin, has already released two albums, Fanfares (2012), and v2.0 (2014). I started noticing them with the latter album, which I really like.

The trio is drummer Rob Turner, double bassist Nick Blacka and pianist Chris Illingworth. This order is taken directly from their website, and is inverting the usual order of giving the pianist’s name first. Well, I’m pretty sure this order is a very conscious choice, as Rob’s pulsating rhythms are really what sets this group apart from all other trios I’ve heard so far.

Man Made Object (2016 Blue Note)

This is the group’s first album on Blue Note, which should hopefully help them to get to the level of awareness they should be at.

GoGo Penguin Man Made Object 24/44 Blue Note 2016

I bought this album pretty much immediately when it came out.

The rhythmic drive, which is clearly influenced by contemporary electro music, is addictive. Combine to this the groove of Blacka’s bass, and Illingworth’ rather simple, but fascinating harmonics, and you cannot help but being drawn into the music.

My favorite tracks on this album are Weird Cat, epitomizing their style. Smart is another great example. You start out with an experimental intro and then jump pretty much immediately in a strongly syncopated groove by Turner and is joined by Blacka and Illingworth to slowly build up an entire harmonic and rhythmic landscape. Amazing.

Here’s the official video for the opening track, All Res, that should give you a pretty good idea:

 

My rating: 5 stars

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

My Top 5 Christmas Jazz Albums

After my previous post on the Christmas Oratorio, I thought let’s continue the seasonal music a bit more, but expand to Jazz.

Warning: Cheesy Music Ahead!

Yes, obviously, non-classical Christmas music usually is rather cheesy. If you take it to the extremes, it can feel like a bit too much.

But let’s face it, isn’t this the time for “a bit too much”?

The trick is to find the albums that are still giving you the Christmas feel without completely overdoing it. I’ve looked around quite a bit and found 5 albums that are certainly a bit kitsch, but you (or at least I) can listen to an entire album without the feeling of just too much sugar.

Holly Cole: Baby, It’s Cold Outside (Alert Records 2001)

Holly Cole Baby It's Cold Outside

I’m actually surprised I haven’t mentioned Holly on my blog yet, as I like her music very much. She’s located somewhere between Jazz and Pop/Singer Songwriter, and I really like her voice.

My favorite song on this album is the track that is probably given you the least holiday spirit, a cover of Merle Haggard’s If We Make It Through December. You can see from this song already that this is not your typical Christmas album.

Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas (Verve 1960)

0004400650862_600

OK, not a lot of kitsch here, but one of the fastest versions of Jingle Bells ever (OK, not as fast as Barbara Streisand here, but still pretty fast). The track selection is a little bit more classical than Holly Cole, so you get all your Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer, Let It Snow,  and Winter Wonderlands, but with the usual charm and swing of Ella’s beautiful voice.

Diana Krall: Christmas Songs (Verve 2005)

Diana Krall Christmas Songs Verve

This is actually already the second Christmas album by Mrs Krall, the first one is a 1999 EP called Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.

Diana Krall’s voice is just perfect for Christmas songs, and the not too overloaded Clayton/Hamilton Orchestra is doing a great job here (although poor drummer Jeff Hamilton probably get’s a bit bored here). OK, you get your occasional dose if strings, but they don’t dominate the album too much.

My favorite song on this album is Winter Wonderland, which has a beautiful swing to it.

Emilie-Claire Barlow: Winter Wonderland (Victor 2006)

Emilie-Claire Barlow doesn’t have the same near celebrity status as her fellow Canadian Diana Krall, but she’s also a very fine singer. She has a very particular tone, much brighter than all the other singers listed above, if you’ve heard her once, you’ll recognize her immediately.

One particularity of this album is that she turns Sleigh Ride into a Samba.

Emilie-Claire Barlow Winter Wonderland

Vince Guaraldi: A Charlie Brown Christmas (Fantasy 1965)

And given that I’m a fan of the Jazz Piano Trio, a non-vocal classic had to be on this list. You’ve never heard O Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree) swinging better!

Vince Guaraldi A Charlie Brown Christmas

You can find the albums above here:

Holly Cole (ProStudimasters)

Ella Fitzgerald (Qobuz)

Diana Krall (Qobuz)

Emily-Claire Barlow (HDtracks)

Vince Guaraldi (Acoustic Sounds)