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The Context and the Musicians
Tom O Hare's previous collaboration with Günther Fischer, This One's For Milt Jackson (Poppy 101), was, self-evidently, a tribute to the Modern Jazz Quartet's great vibist. This new CD was recorded just before the death of that group's pianist and leader John Lewis, and it is appropriately dedicated to his memory. Pianist Paul O'Donnell and drummer Greg McCarthy grace proceedings as they did that previous session, but also on this occasion drummer Niall Marron plays on six tracks. The bassist is Michael Hauser, with whom O'Hare and Fischer are already working on a new project to be recorded in Fischer's new studio.
Günther Fischer studied piano and violin as a child. He later attended the Hanns Eisler College of Music in Berlin, where he graduated as a music teacher, having studied arranging, conducting, saxophone and clarinet. [He has since added various flutes to that impressive armoury.] After lecturing at the College for many years he branched out into composing; among his credits are scores for Drama Festivals in Berlin, Vienna and Zurich and two musicals, Jack The Ripper and Marilyn. In all he has written some 120 songs and 200 film scores, the latter featuring such stars as Dietrich, Mitchum, David Bowie, Tony Curtis and David Hemmings. In 1998 he moved to Kinsale, which he finds an inspiring place to live and work, and which of course has occasioned his regular collaborations with O'Hare.
Tom O'Hare has been a devotee of the Modern Jazz Quartet ever since the age of six, when he first heard Odds Against Tomorrow, No Sun In Venice and the European Concert. He originally trained as a classical pianist and he still teaches the instrument at Kinsale Community School. And while he later switched to vibes, piano jazz has remained an abiding passion for him: Wynton Kelly being his favourite practioner. As a vibist, O'Hare's debt to Jackson is obvious, but his sound and touch are strongly personal; moreover, he has a feel for a melodic line while cooking fiercely.
Michael Hauser lives with his wife and two daughters in Dresden. He studied classical as well as acoustic bass in Hamburg, going on to record with the Thomas Himmel Quartet, Jonas Schšn, Human Elements and Svevende. Since 1994 he has been working regularly with classical orchestras and ensembles in Gotha, Berlin and Dresden, where he teaches bass at the University's Jazz Department. He has also taught at workshops at the Montreux Jazz Festival, universities in Los Angeles and elsewhere. Fischer and Hauser have been working together since 1996 and their new tie-up with O'Hare presages exciting developments.
Laura Friederike is a delicate ballad written by Fischer for his daughter; born in 1987, she is now taller than him! The composer's sound recalls - as it does elsewhere at times - the great Norwegian saxophonist Jan Garbarek; yet there is a greater warmth both to his tone and the recording ambience as a whole, and the quintet achieves a sonorous depth and cogency that belies the brevity of this opening track.
Juntos, written by Ivan Lins, is another thoughtful, deceptively gentle outing. Fischer on soprano and O'Hare relish the tune's subtly lissom samba rhythms.
Two Chick Corea numbers follow. Windows was written for Stan Getz's seminal 1967 date Sweet Rain, while 500 Miles High was a feature both for Corea's Return to Forever band and Getz's momentous 1972 album Captain Marvel. To attempt new readings of songs so inaluctibly associated with those original incarnations can certainly be seen as brave: some might even call it foolhardy! Such, however, is the quality of playing and the individual imagination of all concerned that both performances emerge as fresh and arresting; Hauser's pulsating groove is especially notable
Doce Presenca, another Ivan Lins composition, is a lovely line that also has immense strength: it is hardly necessary to essay any improvisatory exploration, such is the allure of the melody itself. Fischer and O'Hare would seem to agree, offering only some brief (albeit charming) filigreeing before reverting to the theme.
Soul Eyes has come to take its place as one of the great jazz songs of modern times. It is usually performed as a straight ballad, but this arrangement achieves a fetching lope that casts new light on Mal Waldron's gorgeous melody. O'Hare's solo is as intense as melodious (shades here of his master, Bags) Hauser's outing is no less cogent, and Fischer's closing cadenza is flawless in its plangent economy.
Arriving Soon proves an exhilarating contrast. Written by that most extrovert of saxists, Eddie Vinson, it positively stomps along (Hauser and McCarthy are in great form here) and features Fischer's most impassioned work of the session.
David Sanborn's It's You is a characteristically muscular composition that builds into a most satisfying 'wailer'. Fischer and O'Hare complement each other perfectly, smoking fiercely while (as always) mining melodic possibilities to the full.
Lament is arguably one of the finest songs composed by one of jazz's most distinguished writers, the late J. J. Johnson. Beautifully structured and full of arresting phrases and harmonies, it once again brings out O'Hare & Fischer's innate lyricism; however, this track also swings irresistibly, with the kind of lithe, floating power that characterises all the best jazz.
Grooveyard was written by Carl Perkins, a prodigious talent who died aged only 30 and who got far fewer recording opportunities while alive than he warranted. O'Hare and Fischer honour his memory with a reading both subtle and stirring; the composer would have approved of the effortless groove achieved.
The great saxophonist Sonny Rollins has often delighted in picking 'odd-ball tunes (Toot Toot Tootsie and There's No Business Like Show Business, for example) and it's intriguing to find O'Hare and Fischer following suit in selecting Eliot Daniel's I Love Lucy, written for the long-running TV show a generation ago. Their choice is as thoroughly vindicated as Rollins's always are: the tune may be finally lightweight, but you wouldn't think so listening to this version, which is vigorous and penetrating, and indeed O'Hare's solo here is one of his best on the date.
Finally, The Blue Daniel is a fitting tribute to the late Frank Rosolino, who died in 1978. Chiefly renowned as a trombonist, Rosolino was also a very fine writer, as the band demonstrates in a brief but entirely satisfying rehearsal of this captivating melody.
These twelve tracks describe an emotional and technical range that will delight jazz fans of every age and taste. With musicians this good getting the chance to play a programme as intelligent as it is catholic, it is hard for even the grimmest pessimist to imagine that jazz has no future or that its health is anything other than healthy.
Richard Palmer, July 2002
Dr. Richard Palmer is a Staff Writer for Jazz Journal International and also reviews jazz records for Amazon.com. The author of several jazz monographs and a contributor to Masters Of Jazz Saxophone (Backbeat; 2000), his most recent books, both published by Contiuum Press, are Larkin's Jazz, a collection of the poet's jazz reviews and essays, co-edited with John White (2001) and Oscar Peterson's autobiography A Jazz Odyssey (2002) on which he worked as Editor and Consultant.