291

Peter Beets: Chopin Meets the Blues

Greg Simmons By

Sign in to view read count
While a knowledge of romantic pianist Frederic Chopin (1810—1849) can add to the experience of listening to pianist Peter Beets' Chopin Meets the Blues , it is by no means essential to enjoying it. This is a jazz album first and foremost, and a very good one at that.

Beets uses Chopin's charts as a jumping off point, and does not constrain himself by the mood or tempo of the original music. The opener, "Nocturne in Eb Major, Opus 9 # 2," illuminates his willingness diverge from his source. Chopin's original is a down-tempo, highly expressive, if optimistic bit of music. Beets takes the tempo up to a medium pace, adds some blue progressions and returns a totally different piece of music. Bits of the original melody remain but they are now disguised, never standing out in high-relief. The track is reprised at an even faster tempo at the end of the album, with a swinging drum solo from Gregory Hutchinson that would rarely be found at Alice Tully Hall.

In the very next piece, the "Nocturne in F minor, Opus 55 #1," Beets changes gears and hews much closer to the original melody, turning the statement duties over to guitarist Joe Cohn. Again, the tempo is taken at a quick clip, and the band takes the opportunity for a good, straight-ahead workout.

In the classical world, "Prelude In E Minor, Opus 28 # 4," which is one of Chopin's most famous melodies, is treated with varying tempos from middle-slow to barely-a-pulse, depending on the pianist. What might the composer have thought to hear it opened with Reuben Rogers' fat bass vamp?

If it seems that tempo is a recurring theme here, it is. Most of the pieces inspiring this album are slow, often melancholy compositions. Beets is having none of that, consistently quickening the pace and making the tempos more noteworthy than they might be on another album.

Finally, this record compares well with other recent jazz interpretations of classical music. An album like the Classical Jazz Quartet Play Tchaikovsky (Kind of Blue, 2006) makes a point of staying close to recognizable melodies. By contrast, Beets does not shy away from using his source material only as a framework for invention, expansion and improvisation, meaning that in the end a knowledge of Chopin is not required.

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Screen Sounds CD/LP/Track Review Screen Sounds
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 20, 2017
Read Rediscovered Ellington CD/LP/Track Review Rediscovered Ellington
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 20, 2017
Read The Bug CD/LP/Track Review The Bug
by Jack Bowers
Published: August 20, 2017
Read Sing Me Some Cry CD/LP/Track Review Sing Me Some Cry
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 20, 2017
Read Masters In Bordeaux CD/LP/Track Review Masters In Bordeaux
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 19, 2017
Read On Parade In Parede CD/LP/Track Review On Parade In Parede
by John Sharpe
Published: August 19, 2017
Read "Sanjay Divecha and Secret" CD/LP/Track Review Sanjay Divecha and Secret
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: September 2, 2016
Read "Two Hands, One Heart" CD/LP/Track Review Two Hands, One Heart
by Roger Farbey
Published: February 8, 2017
Read "Fugitive Beauté" CD/LP/Track Review Fugitive Beauté
by Karl Ackermann
Published: October 11, 2016
Read "Blooming Tall Phlox" CD/LP/Track Review Blooming Tall Phlox
by Mark Sullivan
Published: January 23, 2017
Read "Purple Patio" CD/LP/Track Review Purple Patio
by John Sharpe
Published: October 1, 2016
Read "Concert Of The Century" CD/LP/Track Review Concert Of The Century
by Mark E. Gallo
Published: August 10, 2017

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

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