Work is a fully realized solo recording by German pianist Owe Oberg. He makes a strong case, in the six tracks/eight compositions, for his overflowing abundance of skill and resourcefulness. Recorded in 2008, this disc comes to light (why the wait?) now, with the release of Turns (Leo, 2016) with Silke Eberhard and another solo record Twice, At Least (Leo, 2015).
Like his previous disc for Hatology, Lacy Pool (2006), the music and sound quality are given top priority. Where Steve Lacy cover band of Christof Thewes and Michael Griener stick to one artist, here he reinterprets a must be hero, Thelonious Monk, plus Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and "Muddy Mouse" by Fred Frith and Robert Wyatt.
The first impression of this outing is that Oberg is parading multiple approaches here. Repeated spins, and his overall philosophy reveals itself. The pianist unwraps each composition as if they were swaddled in layers of silk gauze. The fabric of abstraction opens Mingus' "Fables of Faubus," a dense left hand gives way to the familiar chant directed at the former segregationist governor of Arkansas. Oberg unwraps, then rewraps his music with some stride piano before some crafty prestidigitation presents Coleman's "W.R.U." from his recording Ornette! (Atlantic, 1962).
Oberg's approach comes into focus with pieces from Monk, an artist he favored in previous recordings. "Pannonica" is played relatively straight, if it were possible to call any of Thelonious' music straightforward. Oberg honors the music, and the musician by not de-then-reconstructing the piece. "Work" with a pause, a certain Monkian pause to it, as if the great man were listening.
His original piece "Hill" for the singular pianist Andrew Hill is a dark brooding complicated piece half painted as a requiem mass and half as celebration. Oberg draws out the emotional essence of each piece. His composition "Kelvin" opens with stabbing notes, that turn into clusters of thoughts and the eventual unwrapping of Coltrane's "Crescent." How he gets from here to there in this twenty minute piece is a meditative journey of confidence and a magnificent display of a consummate musician.
Hill; Fables of Faubus/W.R.U.; Kelvin/Crescent; Pannonica; Olo Olo/Muddy Mouse;
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