COPLAND / ABERCROMBIE / WHEELER ~ THAT`S FOR SURE
CHALLENGE 70098 (Barcode: 608917009828) ~ USA ~ Jazz
Recorded: 2000 Released: 2001
This is the debut album by the trio comprising of American pianist / composer Marc Copland, American guitarist / composer John Abercrombie and British trumpeter / composer Kenny Wheeler. The album presents nine tunes, eight of which are original compositions: two by Copland and three each by Abercrombie and Wheeler, and one is a standard.
The music is all quite conventional mainstream Jazz, mostly very melodic and low key, but of course all three participants are Masters of their trade, both as composers and players, so there is no shortage of great music here.
The intimacy and the relaxed, friendly atmosphere of the entire session is the key, which allows the musicians to toy with their ideas and play as much for each other as for the sake of the recording.
Abercrombie fans will find here some of the most melancholic guitar playing of his entire career, which of course is both surprising and delightful. Wheeler´s trumpet and flugelhorn are also at their absolute best, as he was at the absolute peak of his career at the time this music was recorded. Copland seems to be the quiet romantic here plying relatively few solo parts, but keeping the music together harmonically.
Overall this is a delightful album, which showcases three mature Masters at the peak of their creative years, playing superbly together. No big surprises here, but who needs surprises when everything works out just perfectly. The trio recorded another album together four years later, which is very similar to this one and is also certainly worth being discovered. For the Wheeler fans and connoisseurs, this is an absolute must in their collection!
HERSCH / WINSTONE / WHEELER / CLARVIS ~ 4 IN PERSPECTIVE
VILLAGE LIFE 00909 (Barcode: 5037013009091) ~ UK ~ Jazz
Recorded: 1999 Released: 2000
This is a beautiful and criminally little know album recorded by the quartet comprising of American pianist / composer Fred Hersch and three British Jazz musicians: vocalist Diva Norma Winstone, trumpeter Giant Kenny Wheeler and highly respected drummer Paul Clarvis. It documents a live performance by the quartet recorded at St Barnabas Church in Oxford. The album presents nine tracks, four of which are original compositions by Hersch (one featuring lyrics by Winstone), one is an improvised piece credited to all four participants, one is a Wheeler composition with lyrics by Winstone and three are standards.
The music is of course brilliant from start to finish. Hersch, despite his American ancestry (nobody´s perfect), was always spiritually way closer to European music than most American musicians, and as a result his music can be considered a part of the European Jazz tradition. Of course he played with Winstone and Wheeler many times before this occasion, and the mutual amity is obvious. The music ranges from straightforward classics to improvised pieces, which for me are the highlight of the proceedings.
The personal performances are all superb, as expected. Winstone uses her theatrical lyrics delivery masterfully and her vocalese parts are priceless as always. Wheeler ornaments the proceeding with excellent trumpet parts. Hersch plays wonderfully and his piano parts are full of the romantic notions he is renowned for, displaying his obvious virtuosity. Clarvis, who has the toughest job here, uses his percussion instruments with grace and intelligence managing not to spoil the acoustic ambience and still be clearly heard.
Overall this is a brilliant piece of music and a must in any serious British Jazz collection, especially for the many Winstone and Wheeler connoisseurs. Not easy to get hold of but definitely worth the effort. Wholeheartedly recommended!
TOMASZ KOWALCZYK ~ CHANGING PERCEPTIONS
PRIVATE EDITION (Barcode: 193428198593) ~ POLAND ~ Jazz
Recorded: 2018 Released: 2018
This is the debut album by Polish (resident in Hamburg) pianist / composer Tomasz Kowalczyk, recorded in a classic Jazz piano trio format with bassist Niklas Muller and drummer Janosch Pangritz. The album presents a short intro and six original compositions, four by Kowalczyk and two by Muller. The music was superbly recorded and offers an unprecedented, stunning sound quality.
The music is wonderfully melodic, full of melancholy and lyricism and yet at the same time spirited and flowing energetically, which creates the feeling that the album is over very quickly, prompting the listener to press the repeat button.
The trio performs as one organic unit, with an obvious; almost telepathic coordination, which at times is simply astounding. The overall sound is quite different from the classic Jazz piano trio routine, with the bass and drums being up in the mix at the same level as the piano and both of them playing often very distinct roles rather than just providing rhythmic accompaniment.
All three musicians are excellent instrumentalists, each presenting very different personality and mannerisms, which work together quite miraculously. Pangritz is a very „busy” drummer at times, but manages carefully not to disturb the trio´s clarity and breathing space. Muller, who also plays a very nice arco, is also a perfect harmonic supporter keeping the overall sound of the trio together at all times. Kowalczyk´s magic fingers are all over the keyboard, but remain coherent and precise, avoiding the trap of trying to say too much.
Overall this is a wonderful Jazz piano trio album, full of excellent original music and a true joy of playing. Although the music is conventional, it is as good as mainstream Jazz gets, doing everything exactly right. It is a very strong debut statement, which immediately calls for more to follow, and congratulations all definitely due. For melodic Jazz piano trio lovers, this is a dream come true.