The trick to playing Jazz versions of Kurt Weill’s theatrically imposing songs is to wrestle them assiduously to earth and make them swing. It’s a stratagem not everyone has learned. Stefan Karlsson has, an opinion that is emphatically reinforced by the pianist and his trio on No Place to Go But Up,
in which the essence of Weill’s music is tastefully distilled for a romping session that owes as much to the spirit of Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson and McCoy Tyner as it does the composer himself. French–Canadian tenor saxophonist Marc Solis adds his persuasive voice on “Speak Low” and “Lost in the Stars,” and there’s one memorable duet, by Karlsson / drummer Ed Soph on “Moon–Faced, Starry–Eyed” (from Street Scene
). Although Weill was never considered a top–rank Broadway composer in the same league as Berlin, Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers, Loesser, Loewe or, more recently, Sondheim or Webber, he had his share of successes, and it’s surprising how many of these songs are familiar. “Mack the Knife,” of course, was written for the German play Die Dreigoschenoper
(The Threepenny Opera) and made popular in this country in the ’50s by Bobby Darin, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and others. “Speak Low,” from One Touch of Venus,
is a standard, as is “My Ship,” from Lady in the Dark.
The others, not as well–known but no less lovely and enchanting, include “It Never Was You” and “Nowhere to Go But Up” from Knickerbocker Holiday
(whose best–remembered melody is “September Song”),“Here I’ll Stay” from Love Life
and “West Wind” from One Touch of Venus.
Karlsson, who deserves to be more widely heard, plays each of them with notable warmth and understanding while Warrington and Soph are beside him every step of the way. A bounteous scrapbook of wonderful music that swings.
Contact: TNC Jazz, 1350 E. Flamingo Road, Las Vegas, NV 89119. Phone 702–457–3823; fax 702–457–0199. Web site, www.tncmusic.net; e–mail email@example.com