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Vic Vogel: Je Joue Mon Piano

Ronald B. Weber, MD By

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Well, the title—which translates to I Play My Piano certainly does tell the truth about Montreal, Canada's iconic musical father figure. That is precisely what Vic Vogel does—he plays his piano, almost unremittingly. Although that is not totally correct. The CD in this two DVD/one CD set consists of fourteen solo piano renditions of Vogel originals, thus the CD title. However, the first DVD not only has these same tunes on video—so you get to watch the same droning, uninspiring performance along with the occasional clam and do-over—but also has a second, extremely subtle subheading, 1+1=2, since it also contains twelve duets (mislabeled on a Windows Media Player screen as the piano solo tunes).

There are a variety of horn players, none of whom are particularly known to North American jazzers south of the Canadian border; and all of them are quite compelling and accomplished, especially alto saxophonist Dave Turner, flugelhornist Joe Sullivan, and the enormously and technically proficient trumpeter, Ron Di Lauro. They provide welcome relief from the stultifying, monotonous piano lounge musings of the first hour. This is not to say that Vogel cannot play competently—he mostly does—but rather, his playing is generally soporific, not always a bad thing in life. Too much excitement can be bad for one's constitution. No danger of your heart attacking you here, however.

The second DVD narrative or dialogue is predominantly spoken in French and shows the principal at work conducting his band, and of course, talking about his piano. This stuff would have not made the cut on a label other than Vogel's own VV Records. Vogel has led big bands for more than forty years with his Le Jazz Big Band, a featured local act in the Montreal Jazz Festival for all of its 26-year history. He seems fairly comfortable in his elder statesman role, but his intensity and passion are still evident. The impression is that this band might lack the fire and precision of Joe Sullivan's Montreal band or Rob McConnell's Toronto band, but it is still very hip.

The liner notes, written in French and also translated into imperfect English, tend to obfuscate rather than illuminate. The premise of this set evidently is to feature Montreal's foremost jazz raconteur playing his very own piano, even if it had to be moved to a quiet studio for him to do it. This particular Steinway does not have a Red Violin saga or lore connected to it, but has been in Vogel's possession for 56 years (since he was sixteen years old), so there is substantial sentimental value to this well-worn instrument. The board behind the keys—that vertical piece where the Steinway name appears—has been astonishingly excavated by Vogel's fingernails over the years. Who plays the keys way up there? Vogel does, you can watch him do it. If seeing Vogel play his piano in his somewhat idiosyncratic fashion is the foundation for a DVD, we could be spared the spectacle.


Track Listing: CD: Hymnus; Upsa; Recuerdo Chi Chi 1; Recuerdo Chi Chi 2; Recuerdo Chi Chi 3; Act Two; Vanessa; African Sunrise; Redskins; Latina; Touche Magyar; Folkish; Atmosphere; Emilia. DVD1: Hymnus; Upsa; Recuerdo Chi Chi 1; Recuerdo Chi Chi 2; Recuerdo Chi Chi 3; Act Two; Vanessa; African Sunrise; Redskins; Latina; Touche Magyar; Folkish; Atmosphere; Emilia; 1970; Stormy Vetter (take 1); Stormy Vetter (take 2); African Sunrise; To Dave; Capt. Buffalo (take 1); Capt. Buffalo (take 2); Ballad for Duke (take 1); Ballad for Duke (take 2); Song for Cootie (take 1); Song for Cootie (take 2); Vanessa. DVD2: L'homme de Cuivre; The Brass Man; Making of.

Personnel: CD: Vic Vogel: piano. DVD1: Vic Vogel: piano; Richard Gagnon: trombone; Andre Leroux: alto sax; Joe Sullivan: flugelhorn; Jean Frechette: baritone sax; Dave Grott: trombone; Dave Turner: alto sax; Dave Gelfand: bass; Ron Di Lauro: trumpet.

Title: Je Joue Mon Piano | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: VV Records


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