To really get a feel for Toby Koenigsberg's new CD, Sense, you have to hear it. It's smooth jazz
piano that, to my ears, is reminiscent of early Miles Davis transcribed for piano, bass and
drums. Koenigsberg is assistant professor of jazz piano at the UO, where he earned his
undergraduate degree in music before furthering his education at both Eastman and the Peabody
He formed a new group in January, after the recording of Sense was complete, but the CD
release performance features the same guys as on the CD, drummer Jason Palmer and bassist Tyler Abbott. Koenigsberg has two tracks on
Sense called "Stellaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! (one)" and "Stellaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! (two)." I got Koenigsberg on the phone and asked him about those songs plus his love for musician
"There's this jazz standard called "Stella By Starlight" and shorthand among jazz musicians, it's referred to as "Stella," Koenigsberg said. "We had this version where we would improvise freely at the beginning from elements of the song, and that would be an intro to the song. Then we would play the song, then at the end we would play a vamp, which is a repeated short phrase. So both the beginning and the end didn't sound like the tune on their face, but they were using elements of the tune."
When they recorded "Stella" for Sense, they felt the beginning and end worked, but "Stella" itself didn't. "So we cut off the beginning and the ending and made them those two tracks," Koenigsberg explained.
He has plans for a future CD of jazz renditions of Elliott Smith's music. "He's one of my favorite musicians," Koenigsberg said. "His music really works well in a jazz sense, because the harmonic material is really rich . . . and jazz tends to have harmonic material that is also really rich, so it's easily adaptable." Koenigsberg promised to play some of that material at the show.