Jazz CD Reviews

Otmar Binder Trio feat. BJ Cole & Christian Dozzler – Boogie Woogie Turnaround – Jump River

Boogie woogie makes a comeback.

Published on August 25, 2012

Otmar Binder Trio feat. BJ Cole & Christian Dozzler – Boogie Woogie Turnaround – Jump River

Otmar Binder Trio feat. BJ Cole & Christian Dozzler – Boogie Woogie Turnaround – Jump River JRR-311-2, 51:52 [8/1/12] ***:

(Otmar Binder – piano, strings arranger, co-mixer; Alexander Lackner – bass; Michael Strasser – drums; BJ Cole – pedal steel, slide guitar (tracks 1, 3-4, 12-14, 16-17); Christian Dozzler – piano, harp (tracks 7-9, 11, 15); Geri Schuller – Hammond B-3 organ (track 6); Oliver Gattringer – drums (tracks 4, 14); Charlie Furthner – piano (track 5); Patricia Graf-Simpson, Steffi Paschke and Bernadette Graf: vocals (track 17); Judith Reiter – viola (track 17); Julia Pichler and Alexander Gheorghiu – violin (track 17); Andi Steirer – percussion (track 17); Stefan Holoubek – guitar (track 17))

On Boogie Woogie Turnaround, Austrian pianist Otmar Binder uses the past in the present. Over the course of 51 minutes and 17 original tracks Binder replicates the heyday of boogie woogie, a piano-based blues which became popular in the late 1930s and early 1940s but goes back at least as far as the 1870s. It predated jazz and rock and roll and influenced both. The main ingredient in the style is rhythm: this is music made for moving the feet and shaking the limbs. While it’s old-fashioned (and has been out of fashion since the 1950s), the familiar grooves engender a degree of memorability and awareness which is the point of Binder’s return to an older form.

Binder has a perceptive trio which includes bassist Alexander Lackner and drummer Michael Strasser. But the standout tracks are those which involve guests, including session-man extraordinaire BJ Cole (pedal steel, slide guitar), keyboardist/harpist Christian Dozzler or B3 organist Geri Schuller. The album opens with “Southbound,” a short duet between Lackner on rich, standup bass and Cole on understated pedal steel, which acts as a prelude for the generally lively set list which follows. Cole provides nuanced pedal steel on the Western Swing-tilted “Rising River Boogie,” which brings to mind a minimalist Bob Wills and/or Asleep at the Wheel. There’s an appropriately contemporary spin which gyrates through “Looking Forward,” which has a jazzier jaunt than most numbers because of Binder’s striding piano. Cole’s lilting pedal steel is blended in, which gives “Looking Forward” a shapely country slant as well. Boogie woogie, however, can also work in a ballad presentation, as demonstrated on the geographically scintillating “Brighton to Boston,” which has a metropolitan essence due to Binder’s piano and Lackner’s bass improvisation, along with a Nashville flavor inferred by Cole’s pedal steel contours. A bluesy, gospel glint flows through “In Good Hands,” where Strasser lays out a revolving rhythm and Binder and Cole trade lines. Cole takes center stage on the mid-tempo “Venice Stomp,” where his polished pedal steel is heard to advantageous effect. The concluding cut, the slightly shifting “Floyd’s Turn,” combines Cole’s pedal steel, Binder’s reeling piano, some light strings and oftentimes barely audible backing vocals. The credits specify this as the Floyd’s Turn Orchestra, but the mix downplays the full contributions of the total musicians, so the orchestral nomenclature is misleading.

Binder tweaks the boogie woogie structure on a few other pieces. The swaying “At Last” (no relation to the Etta James hit) features doubled, dueling pianos, where Binder adds keyboardist Charlie Furthner, who knows his way around a boogie woogie riff: he participated in a Jerry Lee Lewis tribute last year and generates a pumping piano style throughout “At Last.” A different twist comes during the self-contained, gospel-steeped “Changes to be Made,” where Schuller is upfront on his soulful Hammond B3 organ and Binder is mainly the secondary instrumentalist. This is the most atypical number, which may be why it is listed as a bonus track, although it sits near the record’s middle. Blues is the foundation for material highlighted by Dozzler’s harmonica, such as the Delta-esque “Steamin Away” and New Orleans-soaked “Sugar Cane,” an unaccompanied harp solo. There are several other pieces where Dozzler and Binder’s pianos meld together, including the late-night statement “Bluesprint,” a moderate tune where Dozzler and Binder swap piano lines. Individual tunes have their moments, but when the 17 selections are listened as a whole, Binder’s arrangements do not offer many distinctive or decidedly singular variations. Perhaps that is because Binder stays true to the music which inspired him, rather than stretching the boundaries of boogie woogie.

TrackList: Southbound; Homerun; Rising River Boogie; Looking Forward; At Last; Changes to be Made; Steamin Away; Bluesprint; Travellin’; All the Way; Uphill; Brighton to Boston; In Good Hands; Common Ground; Sugar Cane; Venice Stomp; Floyd’s Turn.

—Doug Simpson




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