It doesn't take a Charles Darwin to realize that the true evolutionary inheritors of Frank Sinatra
's and Peggy Lee
's brand of "popular" music were Elton John
and Billy Joel, and not Harry Connick, Jr.
or Michael Buble
, the latter being more keepers of the flame than the former innovators. Had popular music not dissembled into the current confused concoction of country, rock and hip-hop, where might it have ended up? At the door of German/Canadian Michael Kaeshammer, that's where.
Kaeshammer debuted with Blue Keys
(Alma Records) in 1996. Since that time, he has released six more recordings, including this eponymous release. The staggering reality of Kaeshammer
is the fact that so much talentcomposing, singing, instrumental chops, and arrangingcomes so densely packed in a single person. It seems inconceivable that with such a discography, including Kaeshammer
in particular, the singer is not more widely known. Because this is music more infectious than the flu.
Kaeshammer's stylistic range is as deep as it is wide, ranging from the stride piano of the 1930s Willie "The Lion" Smith
("Tightrope") to the Fender Rhodes of the Faces' Ian McLagan ("Kisses in Zanzibar") and singing from 1920's show tunes (an inspired and revamped "Love Me or Leave Me") to the Christopher Cross-meets-Bruce Hornsby style on "Remedy." Ray Charles
, Leon Russell, Lindsey Buckingham, Elton John, Don Henley, and so on are all here in a sound that can only be called Kaeshammer's own.
Kaeshammer's songwriting is evenly informed by the last 70 years of popular music. The disc opener, "Rendezvous," recalls Billy Joel's An Innocent Man
(Columbia, 1983) period, where "Kisses in Zanzibar" and "Shalimar Wind" brilliantly mined the same stylistic vein tapped by Barry Manilow without that singer's Las Vegas baggage. Kaeshammer digs deep on the disc's spiritual center, a churchy, Gene Harris
-inspired instrumental performance of Curtis Mayfield
's "People Get Ready." The pianist shares solo space with bassist Marc Rogers
, the two weaving a thoroughly modern cover of this already well-covered song. A master of drama, Kaeshammer tells a story with this old song.
Artists of the breadth of Kaeshammer no longer exist. They are too often drowned out by the lowest common denominator conventional wisdom ruling what is popular and what is not. Kaeshammer brings things back to the basics: superior musicianship and exceptional songwriting. If only Sinatra lived so long to hear this.
Rendezvous; Kisses in Zanzibar; A Little Bit of Love; Tightrope; The You-
and-Me; People Get Ready; Heartbeat; Shalimar wind; Love Me or Leave
Personnel: Michael Kaeshammer: vocals, keyboards; Marc Rogers: acoustic and electric basses; Mark Mclean: drums, percussion; Roger Tracassos: drums, percussion; Davide Direnzo: percussion; William Sperandei: trumpet; William Carn: trombone; Gord Meyers: trombone; Perry White: tenor saxophone; Kelly Jefferson: tenor saxophone; Chris Gale: tenor saxophone; Justin Abedin : guitars; Joel Parisien: background vocals; Andrea Koziol: background vocals; Karen Graves: violin, Rebekah Wolkstein: violin; Drew Jurecka: violin; Ron LoPata: Hammond B3 organ.