Peter Erskine & the JAM Music Lab All-Stars

Bernstein in Vienna



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MUSIC REVIEW BY Felix Amador, Jazz Ese Ruido (Spain)


Leonard Bernstein's approach to jazz in works such as West Side Story has moved many musicians to play his songs and perpetuate them as standards. In the album we are listening to today, several of his best-known songs are reviewed with a Viennese line-up belonging to the JAM Music Lab University, directed by the pianist Danny Grissett and "starring" such a special guest as Peter Erskine, a drummer whose legend goes back a long way (in formations such as those of Maynard Ferguson, Weather Report, Steps Ahead or on his 18 albums as a leader). To the rhythm of his extensive experience, these classic themes of Broadway musicals float with an addictive fluidity in a universe (this time yes) purely jazzy. The best part is that the album is recorded live.

The album starts from less to more, with a delicate version of "Somewhere" that, after a meditative intro, enters the rhythm with the speech of the saxophonist Robert Unterköfler. A solo by Danny Grissett with a lot of play and interesting chord progressions puts the piano at the center of the theme to bring the tension to the point where we perceive that forcefulness with which Erskine sets the rhythm without abandoning his elegance. The rest of the album moves along the same lines: elegance, rhythm, a lot of swing and successful and clean solos.

In "I Feel Pretty" (also from West Side Story) the harmonica (Bertl Mayer) stands out, with a very intense solo that is followed, in contrast, by a guitar solo (Andreas Varady). In "It's Love" (from Wonderful Town) we find the pleasant surprise of a violin, one of the least frequent but most exciting instruments in jazz. Cozy Friedel explores all the possibilities of Bernstein's melody about the exquisite hi-hat work of Peter Erskine and an effervescent Danny Ziemann on double bass. It is followed by new solos for harmonica, guitar, piano... in an album full of solos vindicating that organic and visceral jazz, full of all stars, which we always defend.

While "Some Other Time" lets us see the most intimate side of the band, turning the song into an almost silent ballad, where the piano speaks softly, at a very slow rhythm, and the drums whisper, "Lonely Town" (also from the musical On The Town) and "Cool" (from West Side Story) continue that rhythmic and classic line, with little surprises here and there. The album only includes two original tracks. One is the ballad "Vienesse Summer", written by Grisset, and the other is "Calls and Hollers", a song composed by Marcus Ratka that absorbs Bernstein's way of reinterpreting jazz, with its theatrical and gimmicky drama (here Erskine's drums play a fundamental role in an anthology solo). This pair of songs blends in with the rest to round off a work that is perfect in concept (except for the absence of some well-known songs) and very pleasant to listen to.

In short, Bernstein in Vienna is a celebration of standards born in Leonard Bernstein's musicals with a jazzy aesthetic that will please the purists.

Translated from Spanish





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