Jazz CD Reviews
Georg Breinschmid – Fire – Preiser (2 CDs)
Published on March 25, 2012
Georg Breinschmid – Fire – Preiser PR91203, (2 CDs) 78:46; 27:30 [Distr. by Albany] ***1/2:
(Georg Breinschmid – bass, vocals; Roman Janoska – violin; Frantisek Janoska – piano; Thomas Gansch – trumpet, vocals)
No matter the context in which Viennese bassist/vocalist Georg Breinschmid plays (gypsy jazz, pre-war cabaret pop, crazed polka, and lots more) he almost always brings irreverent humor to the fore, as he did on his previous outings, Brein’s World (2010) and Georg Breinschmid & Friends (2008). Breinschmid continues in the same comical vein on his latest foray, the two-CD release Fire, nearly 90 minutes of live and studio material performed with either his trio dubbed Brein’s Café (with Roman Janoska on violin and Frantisek Janoska on piano) or duets with long-time ally, trumpeter/vocalist Thomas Gansch.
The music is a mix of cheeky instrumentals and burlesquing vocal songs (all sung in German), but they all tend toward exuberance, so the language barrier (at least for those not familiar with German) does not get in the way of enjoyment. There are English lyrics in the 14-page insert booklet (which has a visual playfulness which matches the music), but cultural considerations mean that the lyrical wit is sometimes not necessarily conveyed or understandable.
Breinschmid has a firm classical background (stints with the Vienna Art Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic and others) but is also devoted to jazz, and both influences pigment the pieces, sometimes simultaneously. The opener, “Schnörtzenbrekker,” for example, is a heated madcap polka where violin, piano and bass skip frenetically from classical to Django Reinhardt-ish gypsy jazz. The vaudevillian atmosphere resumes on “Rodeo,” (a fast-paced trumpet/bass duet) which Breinschmid aptly designates “Shostakovich meets Spike Jones.” In other words (please pardon the poetic spice), there’s more Spike in the punch than Dmitri, which increases the expressive glee. [Or might it be “more Spike than Dimitris the eye?”…Ed.] More jazz is heard on “Little Samba,” a bright Latin cut where Frantisek Janoska and Breinschmid showcase their respective piano and double bass skills. Time signatures go all over the map on the oddly-titled “jaBISTdudenndeppat” (which Breinschmid states is a Viennese exclamation of surprise), where Gansch and Breinschmid move from 25/16 to 30/16, and then from 15/8 to 11/4. If that sounds a bit helter-skelter, the spoofing excerpt from Beethoven’s Ode to Joy is the kaleidoscopic feather which tops the cap on this eccentric endeavor.
Since satire or amusement is so prevalent, the serious or sober material stands out from the pack, which makes the trio performance on the jazz waltz “Spring” a positive highlight. Here, the Janoska’s and Breinschmid exhibit a traditional jazz approach with very effective results, particularly Frantisek’s scintillating keyboard and Roman’s warm violin, which echoes Stéphane Grappelli’s mannerisms. There is a similar feel to the lightly swinging girlfriend birthday tribute, “Sweetie,” but with more pronounced jocularity due to Gansch’s muted trumpet and a few juicy quotes from other more famous tunes. Another worthy jazz feature is the upbeat Czech/Bohemian trio jam, “Sedlaček’s Mood,” where fervent violin often takes center stage.
Instead of supplementing his album with bonus tracks, Breinschmid goes one step further than most musicians and supplies a half-hour bonus disc with four extras. Up first is a modern jazz piece, fittingly named “Post Bop,” a live trio presentation with passionate violin taking the lead, followed by an alternate version of the character sketch “Herbert Schnitzler” (the original is on the first disc). The unmistakable peak, though, is a lengthy rendition of the optimistic jazz work “Wein Bleibt Krk” (initially offered on Georg Breinschmid & Friends), which is a rare quartet appearance with Breinschmid, the Janoska’s and Gansch. The only shortcoming is the eight-minute vocal blooper collage, “Die alte Engelmacherin,” an interminable patchwork of outtakes, which conceivably is a lot funnier for anyone who understands German. All of Breinschmid’s releases, including Fire, will probably remain cult items at best: but for listeners whose musical tastes drift toward irreverence, there is plenty to appreciate.
CD1: Schnörtzenbrekker; Rodeo; Little Samba; Herbert Schnitzler; Suite 7; jaBISTdudenndeppat; Spring; Jazz-Gstanzln; Nóta/Csárdás; Sweetie; Sedlaček’s Mood; Die alte Engelmacherin; Musette pour Elisabeth; Voodoo-Wienerlied.
CD2: Post Bop; Herbert Schnitzler (alternate version); Wien bleibt Krk; Die alte Engelmacherin (outtakes)