445

Eyran Katsenelenbogen: 88 Fingers

By

Sign in to view read count
Eyran Katsenelenbogen's solo piano work has received the highest praise that a jazz pianist can be given: he has been likened to Art Tatum. Although Tatum is widely considered the most virtuosic piano improviser of the last century, players are hardly ever compared to him. To be associated with the man who Fats Waller referred to as "God," one needs a perfect sense of time and an ability to entirely alter the harmony of a standard at lightning speed. Indeed, precious few musicians have been mentioned in the same sentence as this founding father.

But Katsenelenbogen merits the praise. On 88 Fingers, he treats classics with jaw-dropping technical facility. His sound is a big one, with a Wagnerian range of colors and emotions. His use of the full keyboard—in particular a gingerly handling of the lowest octave on the piano—gives him a kind of gravitas distinct from the bulk of contemporary players. In order to view him as a modern-day Art Tatum, 88 Fingers is the crucial documentation.

But the technique displayed here is too complicated to reduce to just one master, one model. Katsenelenbogen can be as playfully propulsive as Oscar Peterson. At other times, a descending run or audacious phrase might make him sound more like Thelonious Monk. And no matter how far out he goes, how much he allows himself rich tangents and wanderings on his melodies, he is always firmly locked into the essence of the song he plays.

Of the sixteen tracks on the album, three quarters are standard jazz repertoire, primarily popular themes and bebop classics. Perhaps most notable, though, are the two "Improvisations" on classical pieces. An edgy bass riff and fluttering right-hand lines augment the "Promenade Theme" from Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition." And over Chopin's famous "C-Sharp Minor Waltz," he layers a minor latin groove reminiscent of Chick Corea. These super-impositions are truly stunning and a highlight of the album.

On 88 Fingers, Katsenelenbogen's music is true theater, rich and full. He allows himself the full gamut of sounds and emotions that he can elicit from the instrument. But there is no lack of subtlety in this panorama. Close attention to his lines and arrangements evince the care he puts into every phrasing.

On "Do You Know What It Mean To Miss New Orleans," Katsenelenbogen sets up a fairly traditional foundation of stride piano, but then layers a flurry of frenetic lines and blistering reharmonizations over it. The hustle and bustle of the tempo creates an almost overwhelming palette of sound, until the extraordinary control the pianist exerts over every variation in the fabric of piece is realized. As the melody swells and goes farther out with each successive chorus, his project for the song becomes evident. This is homage to New Orleans not as a gutsy blues; instead, it combines Katsenelenbogen's urbane touch with a swagger and an incomparable sense of swing.

88 Fingers is truly a virtuoso's work, wedding a profound respect for the canon of jazz standards to a hyperactive facility for innovation. Perhaps Katsenelenbogen is most in league with Tatum for this fact: he sets the bar towards which other pianists must strive.

Track Listing: Close Enough For Love; Lover; Mack The Knife; Groovin' High; September Song; Improvisation on Promenade Theme from Pictures at an Exhibition; Maura's Tune; Improvisation on Waltz No. 7 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. 64:#2; Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans; What'll I Do; Those Were The Days; Midnight With The Stars and You; Dream A Little Dream of Me; A Night In Tunisia; The Summer Knows; Who Knows How Much.

Personnel: Eyran Katsenelenbogen: piano.

Title: 88 Fingers | Year Released: 2009 | Record Label: Eyran Records


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Float Upstream CD/LP/Track Review Float Upstream
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 26, 2017
Read Extremophile CD/LP/Track Review Extremophile
by John Sharpe
Published: September 26, 2017
Read Setembro CD/LP/Track Review Setembro
by Roger Farbey
Published: September 26, 2017
Read The Source CD/LP/Track Review The Source
by Mark Sullivan
Published: September 26, 2017
Read Aqustico vol 2 CD/LP/Track Review Aqustico vol 2
by Geno Thackara
Published: September 25, 2017
Read Lattice CD/LP/Track Review Lattice
by Mark Corroto
Published: September 25, 2017
Read "Rímur" CD/LP/Track Review Rímur
by Henning Bolte
Published: March 1, 2017
Read "Is It Me...?" CD/LP/Track Review Is It Me...?
by Roger Farbey
Published: May 7, 2017
Read "Louisiana Soul Revival Featuring Doug Duffey" CD/LP/Track Review Louisiana Soul Revival Featuring Doug Duffey
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: November 21, 2016
Read "Varanda" CD/LP/Track Review Varanda
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 16, 2017
Read "Reimagined" CD/LP/Track Review Reimagined
by Mark Sullivan
Published: July 8, 2017
Read "Prototype" CD/LP/Track Review Prototype
by Jeff Winbush
Published: April 13, 2017

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY IT  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.