Log-Book – Philippe Vannod, piano solo – VDE CD-1335, 60:58 (Distr. by Albany) ****:
88 Fingers – Eyran Katsenelenbogen, piano solo – Eyrean Records 9008 ****:
Swiss pianist Vannod started on guitar but changed his alligence to piano as a means of expression. The piano of Duke Ellington became his “maitre a penser” and he was also inclined towards Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky. His other favorite jazz pianists are Dollar Brand, Ray Bryant and Randy Weston. This CD’s pieces recall impressions of various journeys – actual and mental. He spent some time in Tunisia and the folk music of that country is a source of his inspiration.
Not really swinging like most jazz, these pieces reflect a jazz influence in their light music guise that is similar to a certain style that has been around since the 1930s. VDE is evidently a sub-label of the Swiss label Gal, which recently had to change their name due to a legal suit from Gallo wines in California, believe it or not. (Actually, the music sounds much like the sort of thing I night have produced had I pursued my Swiss heritage and moved back there to be a pianist-performer.)
TrackList: SPL’s Ballad, The Pursuit of the White Horse, Djemaa El Fna Place, Blues and Boogie-Woogie for the New Year, Suite for Sunday Morning, The Traveler, Miss You People, BBB Blues, See you…as soon as possible, Medley in F, Facing Desert, Dances no End, Wake up Call Blues/Signature-tune
Eyran Katsenelbogen is another classically-trained pianist who works in a jazz style. He often seems most in league with the great Art Tatum. We just reviewed his DVD Pictures at an Exhibition for two pianos. Katsenelbogen – who is a distant relative of Felix Mendelssohn – currently teaches at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he had earlier studied with Ran Blake, Paul Bley, Fred Hersch and George Russell. The 16 tracks he present here cover a dizzying array of material. There are jazz standard like “Night in Tunisia” and “Groovin’ High,” trad jazz numbers like “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans,” Songbook classics like “September Song” and “Lover,” and classical themes like his improvisations on a Chopin Waltz and on a Mussorgsky theme. Katsenelenbogen only has one original, his “Maura’s Tune.” His CD title is apt, because the pianist is not one to adopt a spare and ascetic performance style, in spite of having studied with Ran Blake and Paul Bley. He tends to risk-taking and very artistic variations on well-known melodies, rather than trying to achieve a funky swing feeling in his interpretations.
TrackList: Close Enough for Love (From ‘Agatha’); Lover; Mack the Knife (From ‘Three Penny Opera’); Groovin’ High; September Song; Improvisation On Promenade Theme From Pictures At An Exhibition; Maura’s Tune; Improvisation On Waltz No. 7 in C-sharp Minor, Op.64# 2; Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans; What’ll I Do; Those Were the Days; Midnight With the Stars and You; Dream a Little Dream of Me; A Night in Tunisia; The Summer Knows (From ‘Summer of ’42’); Who Knows How Much.
— John Henry