What a delight! Check out Peter Bacon’s insightful review of our latest album in thejazzbreakfast.com. Thanks for your kind words, Peter!
Both German saxophonist/flautist Heinrich von Kalnein and American pianist Michael Abene might be more closely associated in our minds with big bands (Jazz Bigband Graz, and both Maynard Ferguson and WDR Big Band from Cologne, respectively) but this is an intimate and relatively informal duo disc. And it’s an absolute delight.
There are a few reasons why it appeals to me. One is that the songs each man contributes (and they are shared fairly evenly) are just that: full songs rather than sketchy heads upon which to improvise. Another is that Abene sees himself much more as an arranger/composer who plays the piano rather than a star pianist (not that there is anything wrong with star pianists, and anyway I think Abene is being a little modest in his self-assessment). It means his playing is never grandstanding or virtuosic for the sake of it; it’s always at the service of the song. Thirdly von Kalnein is a lovely player on both tenor saxophone and alto flute, always melodic in his improvisations, always conversational in tone. And fourthly, the two men – now both working in Graz, Austria – clearly get along so well and are so generous in the performance they are sharing, making this a two-way musical chat that welcomes the listener in.
For a taster I would recommend Abene’s Another Time which opens the album and has von Kalnein on flute, or von Kalnein’s That’s Simple which has a hooky melody that is easy to sing along to. The one non-original is a delightful exploration of Jimi Hendrix’s The Wind Cries Mary. It’s intriguing to hear little links within the programme: a phrase here will remind of a tune there; there is even a pre-echo of the Hendrix melody in von Kalnein’s graceful ballad Sippin’ At Duke’s which has a similar motif of three rising chords in addition to a Lush Life feel.
What cheering and warm company these two men provide on a gloomy January day! Peter Bacon