Who Is Afraid Of Richard W.?
To trot out the readily adaptable cliche, you wait for years for one Wagner-inspired CD to come along and then, blow me down…
First up is drummer Eric Shaefer, he of Michael Wollny’s [em] and, in his love of humour and a certain punk nuance, the German David King. And, with a suitably bombastic version of Walkure for starters, he certainly doesn’t disappoint.
What Schaefer understands is just what great tunes ol’ Richard W wrote, so they can be used an abused with all kinds of stretching this way and that. With him doing that stretching is British trumpeter now, I think, resident on the Continent, Tom Arthurs, Volker Meitz on organ, Fender Rhodes and other keys, and John Eckhardt on bass.
It’s pretty full-on stuff of mostly pop-song length which means that any accusations of self-indulgence can be waved aside with scorn. The band is wonderfully focussed, with Arthurs offering some great solos which manage genuine emotional depth with just the suggestion of a wink, and Meitz gives great washes of context. Shaefer boils throughout.
The drummer recalls how an early introduction to Wagner was via What’s Opera, Doc? and a ten-minute cartoon of The Ring with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. And though he learned to love the real Wagner later, that cartoon feel is never far away here.
Double bass player Dieter Ilg takes a completely different though equally radical tack. There is no humour here, but instead the monumental and expansive opera Parsifal is distilled down to a chamber work for piano trio.
Rainer Bohm is the pianist and Patrice Heral the drummer, and again the music is chopped into relatively small chunks. The band is no stranger to opera, Ilg having previously worked his powers of concentration upon Verdi’s Otello.
Again, the chief bonus here is the strength of Wagner’s tunes, but the bassist has encouraged the musicians to roam wild and free with the melodic and harmonic material.
It’s not quite Play Bach but it’s not that far from it. In the end it sounds like a charming album of melodic European piano trio jazz with the coincidental attraction of the occasional tune that is familiar from a very different context.
Categories: CD review