It’s a free flowing beautiful piece of work.
Double Moon Records
Michael Arbenz – solo piano, electronic effects
The Swiss jazz group Vein have put out 14 albums, eight of them trio recordings. Michael Arbenz, their pianist, has given us REFLECTIONS OF D; a lovely tribute to the music of Duke Ellington.
Like Ellington, Arbenz is also a composer and arranger. Swiss, classically trained Arbenz explored Duke’s work and came up with music that’s modern, has some contemporary jazz free improv, plus nods to the impressionist composers.
‘Take The A Train ’was Duke Ellington’s theme song and Duke played it mid tempo. His left hand clomped a few block chords making it sound like something rolling down a train track. His right hand showed off his stride chops with a few clanging piano keys mimicking a train whistle.
Michael Arbenz plays the song about a train going from Harlem to downtown New York a little differently. His walking bass line lets you know he can play stride piano too. He ruminates on the prettier parts of the tune. He speeds up the tempo; playing behind the beat at times. He plays louder, and then backs off, letting us glimpse the well known melody.
‘African Flower ’is impressionistic and abstract in a lovely off kilter way. There are barely discernible electronic chirps; like distant bird calls. Notes start and ring out. Others start, fall back and fade away, sounding like wind chimes outside your kitchen window on a breezy summer day.
Arbenz takes Ellington’s delightfully laidback, almost lazy ‘Reflections in D ’and gives us a more stylish and sophisticated arrangement.
‘It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing ’is one of the most recognizable songs in all of music. Arbenz adds some angular edges to it. It sounds like Dave Brubeck and Thelonious Monk could have added their thoughts to the mix.
‘In My Solitude ’may be my favorite tune on the album. It’s a free flowing beautiful piece of work.
The Duke Ellington orchestra usually closed out their concerts with ‘Lotus Blossom.’ it seems fitting that this gorgeous song closes out this album.
This is Michael Arbenz’s first piano solo album. It’s so good I think we’ll hear more, or at least I hope we will!
Reviewed by Tim Larsen