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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Don Mather, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf, Glyn Pursglove



Bella Musica BM 31.6529




  1. Konzentration auf's Wesentliche
  2. Expiacion
  3. My Foolish Heart
  4. Shalom Aleichem
  5. Ntanism
  6. Ein Jahr
  7. Sonnenfinsternis Part I
  8. Zeit vergeht
  9. Stella by Starlight
  10. What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life
  11. It's Hard for Trousers in America
  12. Sonnenfinsternis Part II

Max Doehlmann (piano)
Christian Schantz (bass)
Martin Fonfara (drums)
rec. 2008

Another European jazz trio makes its presence felt in this Bella Musica release. Literate and articulate their focus is more classically orientated than some of the more exploratory trios currently so visible (and audible) in the genre. That is established by the first track, Konzentration auf's Wesentliche, which with its weight and balance and refined touch attests to the contemplative refinement that tends to overshadow momentum. Partly this is because elsewhere the increasing democratisation of the trio has led to less of a focus on the piano as primus inter pares whilst this group tends to be 'piano heavy'.

Still there is some interest in the choice of material. Shalom Aleichem is an unlikely seeming selection of repertoire, not least for piano trio. Ntanism is a well worked piece, finely integrated, with some good bass playing but remains just a tad low key. There's just a sense however in the bass lead off in Sonnenfinsternis Part I that the threesome have lent an ear to the more explosive Bad Plus - in its alternation of lyricism and muscularity and in the ensemble sound there's a discernable shift in the axis of the playing. Zeit vergeht has a yearning lyricism and it's clear that pianist Max Doehlmann has, at heart, a Bill Evans like sensibility, though he's more a Romantic, and at times perhaps inert kind of player.

The band, unusually perhaps, takes Stella by Starlight as an up tempo swinger but the Michel Legrand song What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life is a truer index of the band's and in particular its pianist's emotive state - reflective, nostalgic, romantic. I like the title It's Hard for Trousers in America - whatever can it mean? - and it gets a funky workout with interjectory drum figures. And the envoi, Sonnenfinsternis Part II, is a catchy swinging and affirmative way to close.

More of this invigorating dynamism would have been welcome.


Jonathan Woolf 

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