Mar 9 2013
For the next couple days, I’m gonna feature albums that, in addition to being fine recordings, possess a personal interest story aspect that further motivated me to write about them. Today’s is the first of those articles. Let’s begin…
I originally became familiar with pianist Walter Wolff via his participation on Changing Scenes by the Eef Van Breen ensemble. Breen has been on my list for a little while to feature an album review (or two) in my Something Different series. His music is a theatrical version of a Nordic Jazz sound… playful vocals, waves of strings, forlorn trumpet, and some contrasting serenity and dissonance.
Well, as I was compiling my eMusic Jazz Picks last week, I noticed that Wolff had a new album out. It’s a good one. Titled Tomorrow, it’s a real nice modern straight-ahead piano trio recording. The album has some real substance to it, and it sort of got its hooks in me in that unique way that only a solid piano trio album can.
Your album personnel: Walter Wolff (piano), Francesco Angiuli (bass), and Andreas Fryland (drums).
The album’s two strongest elements are the terrific melodies juxtaposed against nifty tweaking of cadences throughout. The album opens with the brisk “Backstabber Bebopper,” which slides into a more casual pace for some decent soloing. Even better is the feel of the album flow as it transitions into the languid pace of second track “Tomorrow,” which keeps a steady current of electricity flowing to keep the music from becoming fodder for daydreams.
“The White Guy” has a pleasant bounce. The inexorable charge of walking bass lines crosses paths with playfully disjointed piano lines, while drums shadowboxes with both sections simultaneously. And while Wolff’s thoughtful piano statements on “Jean” are plenty nice, it’s Fryland’s cymbal work that provides the winning moment. It’s such a thin line at times between cymbal washes coming off as melodramatic or providing a refreshing sursurrance, and Fryland navigates it nicely. “Jean” acts as a defacto interlude into the up-tempo “Simple Line,” and the contrast of the two songs benefits them both. “Look At My Face” has a stilted cadence that draws the ear in, while “Simple Line” has a ponderous cadence set against a frenetic tumult.
The marvelous ebb and flow of the album keeps the ear hooked, without ever having to resort to drama or fireworks, and set against strong melodies that stick around even after the song is over, that’s why I made the album one of my eMusic Jazz Picks, and why I’m expanding on the album here.
And speaking of that weekly article, it’s on Wednesday’s that it gets published on eMusic, usually in the afternoon. Then, that same evening, I typically hit the social media to promote it. That involves visiting artist sites and tracking down things like Twitter addresses, Facebook URLs, etc.
Well, as part of that process, I was on Walter Wolff’s site, and noticed his message about having to give up piano and active performance for health reasons. That, undoubtedly, is a hard thing to do. I can’t imagine otherwise. Every now and then I’ve tortured myself with the hypothetical scenario of what would I do were I not able to write anymore. Take away that preeminent passion from my life, and how would I react? I’m sure I’m not the only artist out there who allows those kinds of haunting thoughts to creep in needlessly. No good comes of it.
But when I do it, one thing that troubles me is that I would leave no body of work behind. Yes, I’ve written a couple fiction novels and a slew of short stories. But nothing that’s been published, and, actually, most of the short stories are lost on old floppy discs, forever inaccessible in a prison of historic technology. I want to make my mark in fiction. I want to create something that will outlast me, a form of communication that the passing of time can’t extinguish. And, I suppose in a way, I want to establish some sort of legacy… one that I could be proud of and look back upon with some satisfaction were I no longer able to continue on.
And that brings this column back to Walter Wolff. I wrote today’s article primarily because Tomorrow is an album that people should know about, but also by way of pointing out that Tomorrow is something that will last, and that it adds to a respectable body of work that he should be proud of. That’s no small thing. In some ways, it’s everything.
Good luck, Walter. All the best.
Released on the Challenge Records label.
Jazz from the Helsinki, Finland scene.
And here’s a link to Eef Van Breen’s Soundcloud page to stream some album tracks from the music I mention in the intro.