The month of March sees a very talented musician on tour throughout Britain and Ireland.
That musician is piano player, singer and composer Olivia Trummer. Originally from Stuttgart in Germany, Olivia now resides in Berlin and recently brought out a new CD entitled Classical to Jazz One on Bauer records, a specialist jazz and alternative label. This tour is in support of this new release, her sixth as leader.
The press release for the CD says that Olivia “is not the first one to face the challenge to merge two genres that are seemingly contradictory like jazz and classical music. On both sides musicians consistently pose the question how they can combine the sophisticated touch and richness of nuances of classical music with the spontaneity, freedom and rhythmical energy of jazz”. Which is exactly right; we know there have been many attempts over the years to merge classical with jazz, musicians of the calibre of Dave Brubeck have done that. We also know that some of the combinations don’t always work and can sound clichéd and staid. However, that was not the case when I first heard Classical to Jazz One in November 2015. From the first note, I realised this was an extra special disc, something that grabs your attention from beginning to end, music that sounds completely fresh and interesting.
This is no mean feat in an era where it has become rare to come up with a concept that sounds fresh to the ears. In 1990, I got a similar feeling when I heard Bela Fleck and the Flecktones on the radio for the first time on David Sanborn’s show; I followed their progress since and saw them play live at the Jazz Café and Borderline. Not to say there isn’t great jazz released all of the time as there clearly is but what Olivia has done is add her own arrangements to the “Masters” of classical such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Amadeus Mozart and Dominico Scarlatti. In fact, they have been rearranged so incredibly that you could not equate them to the classical interpretation. The perfect example of this is Scarlattacca, which features voice and the marvellous vibes of Jean-Lou Treboux. It is one of the most beautiful rearrangements of any music I have ever heard in all genres of music, a remarkable composition. Jean-Lou’s vibes really add the most brilliant tonal colours to this music. People reading this may think of Chick Corea on piano and Gary Burton on vibes when it comes to this type of combination but I think a more appropriate comparison would be the lesser known David Lahm with vibes player David Friedman who manged to combine rhythm, melody and inventiveness all in one, this is exactly what Olivia Trummer and Jean-Lou have achieved, her voice giving an even extra dimension as well.
So, I made my way to Omnibus in Clapham on Sunday evening in great anticipation to see this music presented live, and to say hello to Olivia whom I had interviewed via Skype back in January. And of course I was not disappointed! Seeing this music played live was an incredible treat, with the audience captivated in a way I haven’t seen for some time (and I go to a lot of gigs). Olivia explained the concept of the record and played one of two of the compositions in the original interpretation and then played her arrangement, jazz at its finest as there was quite a shift from the original compositions.
The concert had two sets and at the end, Olivia and Jean-Lou got a rousing reception and from what I can see, rip roaring trade in selling her signed CDs! In fact, after the concert was over, one of the punters came up to me and asked if any improvisation had taken place during the concert but was a bit too shy to ask Olivia as he was not an expert of jazz. I explained to him the way Olivia rearranged compositions by Bach and Mozart, there was a lot of improvisation, particularly by Jean Lou on vibes who was given freedom. Olivia improvised as well but as the piano player played the simultaneous role of bass player and providing melodic function. The punter was pretty happy with what I said; the main thing is he really enjoyed the music.
Olivia’s music has really made an impression. She has been interviewed on BBC London by Robert Elms and is due to finish her tour of Britain with dates in Liverpool, Abergavenny and London having already performed five dates in Ireland. A bass player I am due to interview told me how much he is enjoying Olivia’s CD played on Jazz London Radio! I strongly recommend to check out this great artist while she is on tour, and to purchase her CDs.