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Friedrich Gulda and Joe Zawinul – Music for Two
Pianos Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Variations on a theme of Joseph Haydn Op.56b [20:14] Friedrich GULDA (1930-2000)
Variations for two pianos and band (1966) [16:34]* Joe ZAWINUL (b.1932)
Volcano for Hire [4:25]
Gulda, Joe Zawinul (pianos)
WDR Big Band Cologne/Jerry van Rooyen *
rec. Philharmonie, Cologne, 20-21 May 1988. CAPRICCIO 67175 [42:15]
and Zawinul were born in Vienna two years apart. Gulda had,
for classical purists, unacceptably maverick tendencies,
interesting himself in smoky clubs and stretching out for
long jazz sessions. Zawinul, sideman with Miles Davis and
a long-time founder member of Weather Report, had known Gulda
for many years when they collaborated in these Cologne concerts
in May 1988.
concerts began with a two piano version of the Brahms Haydn
variations and then took in a long-ish piece by Gulda and
a much shorter one from Zawinul. It’s odd to hear Zawinul
being introduced to the audience in typically Teutonic fashion
as Josef; maybe he’s still known in German-speaking lands
as Josef or maybe Joe is insufficiently serious a name – too
frivolously Anglophone – for twenty minutes of Brahms. The
Brahms opens unexpectedly with a rather freely impressionist
introduction before we move to a broadly trouble free reading.
A demerit is the sound of the pianos; rather unforgivingly
harsh in the middle range. Still, the two men build up a
head of steam by the end.
Variations centre around a ruminative waltz – naturally the
Viennese theme is played up given the origins of both men.
The band then enters with crisp rhythm backing the variations
proper underpinned by the comprehensively swinging drumming
of Mel Lewis who anchored the NDR at this time. The variations
oscillate between piano reflections and band brassiness.
It’s impossible to tell which pianist plays what and when
but someone certainly – probably Gulda – pays homage to Oscar
Peterson at one point. The variations take in hints of popular
song but there’s too much decorative, if not rococo note
spinning and the alliance between classically derived inspirations
and straight ahead big band jazz, fails - as it almost always
does - to produce anything truly viable.
own Volcano for Hire is only four minutes long. It indulges
a Stride-like roll and also embraces some kitsch moments
as well. Can’t say it sent me, as we used to say.
been dead some years now and his shade still attracts and
intrigues. Zawinul’s experimentation continues. Their Cologne
meeting was an invigorating affair. But I don’t think it
quite qualifies for the “gold plaque” rubric on the jewel
case – “Des Kult-Konzerts.”
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