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Reviewers: Tony Augarde [Editor], Steve Arloff, Nick Barnard, Pierre Giroux, Don Mather, James Poore, Glyn Pursglove, George Stacy, Bert Thompson, Sam Webster, Jonathan Woolf

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Aural Colors




1. Yellow meets Red

Schönberg meets Kandinsky Suite:

2. Sechs kleine Klavierstücke op.19, Nr. IV

3. Sechs kleine Klavierstücke op.19, Nr. III

4. Sechs kleine Klavierstücke op.19, Nr. II

5. Öpfili, bist so kugelrund

6. Intro to the Myths

7. Horus and Jesus

8. AM – Anonymous Monkaholics

9. Virus Ukelelen Song

10.Healing Colors

11.Para Hermeto

David Helbock (piano), Raphael Preuschl (bass ukulele), Herbert Pirker (drums)

Recorded and mixed at Traumton Studios, Berlin, Germany in October, 2014 [50:29]

With this CD Austrian pianist David Helbock has released 13 records and has won umpteen prizes, including at the Montreux Jazz Festival on two occasions plus its 2010 audience prize. Despite all this he’s managed to escape my radar. Does that mean my radar needs upgrading or is the world of jazz simply in a very good state; the answer is clearly both. This disc is one of those that you want to replay as soon as it’s finished.

Young musicians naturally want to propagate their own compositions and that’s fine if they’re any good, otherwise one is often left wishing they’d stuck to standards that have stood the test of time. There is no problem with that dilemma here as each one is superb. Actually three are by Arnold Schönberg, arranged by Helbock though they might as well be originals because the source is difficult to determine (for me at least), and one is an arrangement of a folksong.

For the bulk of the disc the music bounces along with a rhythmic energy that is highly infectious and which keeps you smiling throughout your listening. The album title is an accurate one since there is so much colour in this music. The other thing which is very striking is how ‘big’ a sound these three musicians make. There is perfect balance between them and a symmetry that makes for an experience that is all encompassing and which is a real example of the whole seeming greater than the sum of its parts. In particular, to get a good idea of what I mean, try auditioning Öpfili, bist so kugelrund (Öpfili, you’re so very round); you’ll be well and truly hooked and never think of ‘folksong’ in an ordinary way again.

Listening as I am at present to the closing moments of Horus and Jesus I am struck by Helbock’s delicate touch making the notes sounds like droplets of rain while at other times he can make a thunderous sound. In AM – Anonymous Monkaholics the influence is much easier to determine than with the Schönberg inspired pieces; it’s almost like a reincarnation of the great man.

Rather than a traditional bass Raphael Preuschl plays a bass ukulele which is an instrument I had never heard of before and which sounds totally different to anything you might imagine from its name, with a wonderfully rich fat sound. With the gift of YouTube you can experience this trio playing at the X Vladivostok International Jazz Festival in 2013 where they deliver an extended version of Öpfili, bist so kugelrund with a blistering intensity that knocks your socks off. Talk about ‘try before you buy’; make no mistake if you listen you’ll buy this disc!

To show how gentle they can play their Healing Colors is beautifully calming with Helbock caressing the keys, making for an almost therapeutic experience. Picking up the pace again Para Hermeto is a great way to close the album. It must be a tribute to Hermeto Pascoal the legendary Brazilian jazz pianist and composer. I think he should be flattered.

All three musicians are obviously at the very top of their game with David Helbock an absolute piano genius with, at times, a prepared piano that gives a whole new meaning to the concept, Rudolph Preuschl is a fantastic bassist and his choice of bass ukulele is both unusual and brilliant for it has a unique sound all of its own, while Herbert Pirker is a superlative drummer whose contribution is vital to the balance of this fabulous trio. This is thrilling, innovative jazz at its very best and is an album that once heard will never be far from your CD player.

Steve Arloff

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