18 May 2007

Points North

A few months back, my friend Bill asked: "...could the assertion that the most interesting new jazz is happening overseas really be true?"

Having listened to the new e.s.t. album, I'm tempted to say the answer is yes. On Tuesday Wonderland (Emarcy/Universal), the Swedish trio led by pianist Esbjorn Svensson has cooked up another remarkable concoction that merges the traditonal piano trio intrumentation with atmospheric effects and driving rhythms and ultimately results in a jazz from the dark side of the moon, if you'll pardon the metaphor (and I hope you will).

I Wanna Listen to Rag
If the work of Norway's Ophelia Orchestra is any indication, the most interesting old jazz is also happening beyond these shores.

The Kansas City Ragtime Revelry brought the Ophelia Orchestra to the Gem Theater in 2005. Even though I'm a fan of ragtime who went with high hopes, I was stunned at how exciting it was to hear a group of Norwegians tear through music 80+ years old. The group was founded in 1977 by Morten Gunnar Larsen, whose solo album Fingerbreaker is as brisk and loving a study of early 20th Century American piano styles as you could ever hope to find (assuming anyone but me ever hopes to find such a thing).

Their newest project "Sound and Smoke" takes them away from American ragtime to the smokey nightclubs of Weimar-era Berlin. Given the orchestra's track record, it should be well worth checking out.

The Revelry is bringing the Ophelia Orchestra back again this year. This time the show is is at Californos in Westport, Tuesday, June 5 @ 7:00 pm. Admission is by donation (they're suggesting $20) which goes to the band, so don't be a chiseler.