Marcus Trio – Peace For Beethoven – 59:49 ****1/2:
This is a great jazzy Beethoven tribute!
(Lenny Marcus – piano; bass, flute, synthesizer; Rick Eckberg – double bass, six-string bass; Larry Scott – drums; Vladimir Espinosa – percussion; Tom Artwork – flute)
The Lenny Marcus Trio garnered critical recognition for The Jazz Of Beethoven. Pianist Marcus continues his jazzy reinvention of Beethoven with Peace For Beethoven. With Rick Eckberg (double bass), Larry Scott (drums) and Vladimir Espinoza (percussion), ten Beethoven-motif based arrangements and three original inspired pieces bring a sense of dexterity and musical joy. Opening the album “Ecossaise Seven” (a British Isles Contradanze or country dance that was utilized by Beethoven, Chopin and Schubert) grabs the listener’s attention. Marcus initiates a lively modernized time signature that captures the festive ambiance with punctuated rhythmic timing. He injects elements of swing as Eckberg and Scott maintain a concise tempo. On “Beethoven’s Fifteenth” Marcus puts together a pulsating groove with his left hand and weaves through uplifting melodic chords as Espinosa adds some subtle percussion. Descending chord shifts are followed by jaunty runs. The pianist explores “Fur Elise” in jazzy shadings for the opening minute. Then the arrangement draws on the inspired 5/4 time signature of pieces like “Take Five”. The juxtaposition of the dramatic modulations of “Fur Elise” and the Brubeck-like timing is flawless.
The first of three original numbers, “Two Hundred Stars” displays a meditative elegance that is built on classical musical structure. Marcus injects tenderness into interludes, with sufficient upticks in rhythm. Like other jazz pianists, Rondo-inspired music feeds into updated contexts. On “Waldstein One” (renowned for its technical instrumental challenges), Marcus interprets this Sonata with a receptive groove and imbues classical runs and prominence within the arrangement. It is a dynamic 2:24 and gets better with each listen. Of course, “Beethoven’s Fifth” is represented. There have been many popular adaptations of this iconic opus (even a questionable “70’s disco one). Here Marcus hits a bluesy groove as he introduces the familiar main theme. His piano flourishes (and amazing solos) and chord exploration reiterate the organic crescendos (including wistful interludes), but add a touch of 60’s jazz to it.
Marcus shines on “Greensleeves Bagatelle”. His agility in deconstructing the melodic imagery of this composition and weaving different jazz elements (with just the right touch of swing) is potent. The title track (another original) is hypnotic and delves into graceful harmonies (like Bill Evans), but with a hypnotic pulse. And on “Moonlight Serenade”, Marcus cute loose, adapting it to a high-octane swing jam, with faithful emphasis on the distinctive melody. In a pleasant surprise, the trio takes on Americana with “You Are My Sunshine”. In a reverse of sorts, the country-flavored favorite has been transformed to late 18th or early 19th century Romanticism. The next two songs (“Never A Stranger” and Ludwig’s Dilemma”) are both Marcus compositions and intermingle up tempo jams with compelling (and on the latter, moody) runs. An ethereal “IO” (with flute accompaniment by Tom Artwick) is both lyrical and haunting.
Both jazz and classical music aficionados should enjoy Peace For Beethoven!
Two Hundred Stars
Peace Foe Beethoven
You Are My Sunshine
Never A Stranger