Wednesday, June 12, 2019

New Album of Quiet Jazz from Switzerland

from the Web page for the recording begin discussed

Based in Montreux on the shore of Lake Geneva, TCB Music serves as the label for recordings from the Montreux Jazz Festival. However, the scope of its catalog extends far beyond those Festival recordings. In particular it includes the SWISS RADIO DAYS JAZZ SERIES, CD releases of jazz events recorded by Swiss Radio and never before released. I am not sure how long this series has been maintained, but its 44th release came out over a month ago. The recordings were made at two Cully Jazz Festival concerts held in March of 1989 and 1990, respectively. Like Montreux, the municipality of Cully was on the shore of Lake Geneva; but the use of the past tense involves the fact that, on July 1, 2011, it merged with four nearby municipalities into what is now Bourg-en-Lavaux.

Both of these recordings featured Swiss pianist Thierry Lang, performing with his trio, whose other members were Ivor Malherbe on bass and Marcel Papaux drums. They were joined by featured guest artist Toots Thielemans on harmonica. I have been listening to Thielemans for as long as I have had good radio sources for jazz at my disposal; but, ironically, this is the first time I have added one of his recordings to my collection. I definitely have not been disappointed.

It would be a bit trivializing to call Thielemans a master of “soulful standards;” but he definitely has a knack for putting engaging twists on familiar tunes. The most familiar of the selections on this album are Henry Mancini’s “The Days of Wine and Roses” and Victor Young’s “Stella by Starlight.” In addition, he includes a lesser-known Young tune, “A Weaver of Dreams,” which definitely deserves more attention. (On this album it provides one of the better opportunities for an extended bass solo from Malherbe.) There is also a performance of Paul Simon’s “I Do It for Your Love,” from his Still Crazy After All These Years solo album. I am never sure of how well Simon tunes stand up to imaginative jazz interpretation, but Thielemans makes a thoroughly convincing case for this one.

Perhaps one of the reasons he can sound so compelling when taking on music written for voice is that he can apply his breath to summon up the spirit of singing, if not the act itself. His technique seems to capture not only subtle shifts in the levels of his dynamics but equally subtle microtonal inflections that gracefully slide in and out of the notations on the charts. Thus, even when his repertoire takes on tunes we often know from all too many other resources, there is no shortage of innovation in how he interprets those tunes. As a result, I am more than delighted that, thanks to Swiss Radio, I now have a recording to which I can turn whenever I seek out a more adventurous approach to the “standards repertoire.”

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