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Georg Breinschmid: Fire

Larry Taylor By

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A mixture of outrageous humor and subtle beauty make up Fire, from Austrian bassist Georg Breinschmid. Such a conflicting opinion needs explaining.

The 14 mostly originals (plus a bonus disc of four additional tracks) combine live and studio recordings using two different groupings. There is Brein's Café—a piano/violin/bass trio; and a duo with trumpeter Thomas Gansch. In some pieces they all get together.

There are silly vocals and shameless parodies of polkas and classics—think Shostakovich meets Spike Jones. On the other hand, there are lovely ballads, delightful up-tempo tunes and top musicians given time and space to improvise. They have been together awhile and know the routine, traveling regularly in Europe. Unfortunately, some verbal humor is lost to non-German speakers. The only American group to compare them with is The Bad Plus, in its most eccentric moments.

Born in Vienna in 1973, Breinschmid studied classical bass at Vienna University, and as a promising student often subbed in prestigious Viennese orchestras. After his classical start, he got into jazz, working with likes of saxophonists Archie Shepp, pianist Kenny Drew, Jr. and Bireli Lagrene. Though steeped in jazz, his music defies category—the keyword is fun.

First up, "Schnörtzenbrekker," is a mood-setter, a raucous polka that sets off a party-like atmosphere. Tranquility sets in minutes later, however, with the rhythmic "Little Samba," where violinist Roman Janoska's violin pizzicato fuses with a bossa beat that also showcases Frantisek Janoska's swirling keys. The extended "Suite 7" gives the trio ample solo space.

The duo has fun with "jaBistdudenndeppat," a title referring to its various time signatures. Gansch's free-form trumpet is spotlighted, and gives way to an improbable chorale on Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." Musical quotes show up throughout, from "Cheek to Cheek" to "Darktown Strutters Ball"; clearly, anything can happen.

"Spring" is another peak, the piano and violin collaborating for a tension-packed climax. "Musette pour Elisabeth" takes on operetta, with apologies to Franz Lehar, replete with an agonizing mezzo hilariously lamenting her fate; Diva goes bonkers. The musicians, finally, have no respect.

A special treat awaits in the bonus disc, with Fire igniting on the fiery "Wein blebt Krk." Like the whole work, it's a "gas."

Track Listing: CD1: Schnörtzenbrekker; Rodeo; Little Samba; Herbert Schnitzler; Suite; jaBISTdudenndeppat; Spring; Jazz-Gstazln; Nóta/Csárdás; Sweetie; Sedlaček’s Mood; Die alte Engelmacherin; Musette pour Elisabeth; Voodoo-Wienerlied. CD2: Post Bop; Herbert Schnitzler (alternate version); Wein Bleibt Krk; Die alte Engelmacherin (outtakes).

Personnel: Georg Breinschmid: acoustic bass, compositions, vocals; Roman Janoska: violin; Frantisek Janoska: piano; Thomas Gansch: trumpet, compositions, vocals.

Title: Fire | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Preiser Records


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