Steven Cerra. Copyright protected; all rights reserved.
In Jazz circles,
George Klabin is a legendary guy and, a courageous one.
Not only does he develop and host Jazz concerts, he operates and maintains a recording company that produces Jazz recordings!
This, in the year - 2010?!
And we’re not talking about commercially viable Smooth Jazz, either. The Jazz that George records on his Resonance Records label is the real deal.
For more about George’s background, please see this in-depth interview and for more information about his record label, please click on this link to - Resonance Records.
George and I share a fondness for the music of Italian Jazz pianists which was how we first met in April, 2006 when he brought Enrico Pieranunzi over from
to perform at his Rising Jazz Stars Foundation in Italy . Beverly Hills, California
George is also a classy guy. He does things right with the professional and performance needs of the Jazz artists being accorded the highest standard of comfort, consideration and competence.
In the case of artists visiting from out-of-town, they spend four days with George and his team, two in rehearsal and two in performance.
George’s not-for-profit foundation maintains adjoining homes in
, one which serves as a residence while the other provides a state-of-the-art recording studio/ concert hall to which a select group of approximately 60 people are invited to sponsor and attend a Saturday evening performance by the visiting artist with another following on Sunday afternoon. Beverly Hills, CA
Each concert is comprised of two, one-hour sets which George records digitally as both an audio and a video performance. He subsequently issues these concerts as CD’s and
During the intermission, a buffet table with wine and soft drinks is provided in the backyard of the concert hall/residence and this allows the guests to co-mingle with the artists and one another in an atmosphere of cordiality and comfort.
Could the setting that George provides for the Jazz artists and his guests be any more convivial let alone conducive to creating an atmosphere for Jazz to be played at its best?
George loves what he refers to as “passionate Jazz” [figuratively, Jazz played in a passionate or inspired manner]. He is attracted to Jazz artists who play the music with a rhythmic intensity, but who also have depth-of-feeling and sincerity of emotion in their interpretation of the music.
In the operatic sense of the word, George is an impresario – he sponsors, manages and produces Jazz. While never interfering with their creativity, his unique imprimatur is stamped on the performance and production of the music played by his guest artists.
Due to a late awareness of what was a fully subscribed Enrico Pieranunzi performance on April 7, 2006, the editorial staff at JazzProfiles got to see George and his technical team “up close and personal” as the only seats available that evening where in the recording booth with the engineers!
How cool is that?
From such a special vantage point, it was gratifying [and no less amazing] to watch the attention to detail that George and his cohorts lavished on every aspect of the music and its makers that evening.
Did I mention that George is a classy guy?
While all of this is largely a Matter-of- the-Heart for George [although he is enough of an astute business man to pay considerable attention to matters-of-the-pocketbook, as well] George and Resonance Records were recently provided with another source of gratification for their efforts on behalf of Jazz.
His peers honored him a professional distinction of the highest order when Bill Cunliffe won a Grammy for the best instrumental arrangement on Resonance Records Big Band Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson [RCD-1008], a CD that introduces the Romanian pianist, Marian Petrescu.
Here are George’s own comments about how this recording came about.
George Klabin. Copyright protected; all rights reserved.
“Oscar Peterson has always been very dear to my heart ever since I discovered him when I was a teenager in the 60's. I loved the way he swung, and the passion with which he played. I want to celebrate Oscar now that he has passed, not just for being one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time, but also for his compositions, arrangements, and his entire legacy! Oscar was also a marvelous composer and a clever and creative arranger. Some of his "versions" of standards have themselves become "standards" of jazz piano.
So, I thought about putting together a "vehicle," a big band that could play Oscar's arrangements and songs. But of course, the biggest problem was how to handle the role of the pianist in this band. Who was I going to find that could represent Oscar? How would I find this person? I wanted a pianist who could literally step into Oscar, to channel him, with all the passion, swing, bluesy feel, and the unbelievable technique that he had. Only with someone with these qualities could we truly carry on Oscar's musical legacy.
Fortunately, the Universe brought me Marian Petrescu, a 37-year old Romanian pianist who lives in
. I had recorded Marian in 2006 when he came to my studio to join his friend and guitarist Andreas on Andreas' CD. As I watched him play, I heard the ghost of Oscar Peterson, in such a perfect and amazing manner that I could hardly believe it, if not for the fact that I was there and saw him play those notes. It was uncanny. Marian was actually able to play Oscar Peterson's music with flawless and seemingly effortless technique, swing, and sensitivity. He was far more than just a clone, because he could improvise. To hear him was actually a spiritual experience, and I will never forget it. Finland
So, in early 2008, a few months after ()scar Peterson passed, I asked Marian if he would play piano for a big band to honor Oscar. He loved the idea, and told me that he had fallen in love with Oscar in his teens. Marian said that, along with Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson was his biggest influence. The idea of this production was to have Marian playing some of the opening portions of the most famous Oscar Peterson music, starting with note for note transcription* then going into Marian's own improvisations.
Now that I had found the right pianist, I set out to select the music. Being quite familiar with Oscar's compositions, I wanted to have many of them on the album, along with some standards that featured Oscar's unique arrangements for small group and solo piano. In addition, I had always loved a big band record Oscar made in the late 60's on
MPS in Germany, called "Motions and Emotions," arranged by the great Claus Ogerman. There was one piece I liked best titled "Sally's Tomato" from the film "Breakfast at Tiffany" by Henri Mancini. I had worked with Claus on a project in the early 70's at my studio in . I was able to reach him in New York , and asked if he would allow us to transcribe his chart of "Sally's Tomato." To my delight, he still had the original hand written chart, and would allow us to perform it! Germany
I now asked two huge Oscar Peterson fans to arrange the tunes, both of whom I considered among the best arrangers. American Bill Cunliffe and German Kuno Schmid are great jazz pianists in their own right, as well as brilliant arrangers, and I was familiar with their work. We were also fortunate to have Resonance artist Andreas on guitar, and to book some of the greatest studio jazz musicians in
for the sessions. Los Angeles
To get a glimpse of how this album was conceived and produced, please view the accompanying
George Klabin, President, Resonance Records, The Rising Jazz Stars Foundation.”
And here are Arnold van Kampen’s insert notes to on Resonance Records Big Band Plays Tribute to Oscar Peterson [RCD-1008]:
“‘You Tube’ is a wonderful site for discoveries. Some two years ago, while watching several clips of Oscar Peterson, I found a completely unknown piano virtuoso playing "
," but instead of the big smiling black face of Oscar above the piano, I noticed a friendly white face, with small beard and spectacles. Collecting every note of the Canadian jazz giant since I was a child of 11, and being Oscar s close friend for over 20 years, I wondered who else could play piano equally gifted with that dazzling technique? Indiana
The name of this fabulous pianist was Marian Petrescu, but even an intensive search on the Internet brought no light in the mystery of this unknown and intriguing pianist. I could not find any biography or a single CD. Something of the same experience must have happened on the other side of the Ocean by another "Petersonian" of my age, to a gentleman who would cross my path:
George Klabin of Resonance Records, in . Beverly Hills, California
During 2006, something of the mystery around this unknown pianist was solved. That year a small record label released a CD called: "Body and Soul" (Hot Club Records in
), and I learned that this friendly face belonged to a Romanian born piano player, now living in Oslo , at the age of 36. Although the CD was hard to get, I managed to order a copy and often used it to fool my friends during "blindfold tests" at my home. Finland
A few months after Oscar's death he phoned Marian Petrescu in
and told him of his idea to do an album dedicated to Oscar Peterson. After he persuaded Marian, he hired a complete orchestra, two arrangers/conductors, and even contacted famous arranger/conductor Claus Ogerman, who had done the album "Motions and Emotions" with Oscar Peterson. George also approached me in Finland to do the liner notes. Here was my chance to solve the mystery of the unknown piano virtuoso. I interviewed Marian Petrescu a few days before Christmas, 2008: Holland
"I was born in
on Bucharest June 25, 1970, and started playing piano when I was 4-years old. I studied classical and jazz piano at several conservatories in , Romania and finally at the Sibelius Akatemi in Sweden , because first my older brother and later my complete family immigrated to Helsinki, Finland Scandinavia."
"Jazz came into my life and changed it completely when I watched Romanian television at 7, and there was this wonderful concert of Oscar Peterson and guitarist
, part solo, part duo. I was so impressed, and at once knew: This is what I want; this is what I will try to do. And I had to try very hard, because Oscar had that unbelievable musical level. It was not only his incredible technique, but the way he thought and handled this beautiful instrument." Joe Pass
George Klabin phoned me sometime after Oscar had passed, I was honored by the fact that he thought I could handle this idea of his. My goal for this album was not to imitate Oscar. You know there are a lot of guys who try to play like him, but that is impossible. Nobody has his sound, his swing, his power and the affinity. I call this the 'sugar' Oscar had."
"Doing this album was a challenge for me, and of course it was difficult. When we had planned the production, George started sending me all these notes and of course Oscars music along with it. I studied very hard. But these notes kept coming, and coming... At one point I said to George: "I can't do this, it's too much." But he said in his own persuading way: "You can do it, "and his belief in kept me going."
"I think all in all I studied for this album in
, at my home for a solid month. All recordings were done together with the orchestra, most tunes just in a few takes with no overdubbing. We had planned to record the album in a week, but finished it in four days thanks to excellent planning and the very fine Finland musicians George hired." L.A.
We changed the subject and talked about how to get Oscars spirit into the album. So we discussed the different trios Oscar Peterson had. Although Marian owns only ten albums of Oscar Peterson (I could hardly believe that he has that few), he had a great knowledge about Oscars career and outspoken comments on the numerous trios Oscar had:
"Oscar had the best bass players in the world, and maybe Ray Brown was the very best of all with that dark beautiful sound of his. But he had also Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen (NHOP), maybe the fastest gun around. Bass players are very important for pianists. In my own trio, with drummer Keith Hall, I always feel at home with my brother, Mihai Petrescu, playing bass. During concerts we often perform tunes related to Oscar, like "Cakewalk," "On The Trail," and "On Danish Shore," which was written for Niels-Henning, but my brother handles it very well.
However, Ray and NHOP were different bass players. You can say Oscar and Ray were right hand and left hand, while Oscar and NHOP were two right hands."
"For Oscars different trios you can say:
• O.P. + Herb Ellis + Ray Brown: complete swing
• O.P. + Ray Brown + Ed Thigpen: affinity.
• O.P. + NHOP + Louis Hayes: dynamic.
• O.P. + Sam Jones + Bobby Durham: the best help Oscar could get.
You know Sam Jones was such a cool, understanding bassist."
Finally, we discussed the Peterson, Pass, NHOP Trio, and I told Marian what Oscar said to me years ago about this trio:
"With Joe and Niels it wasn't the swinging trio like with Ray and Herb Ellis (although it swings like mad AvK). You know
isn't a rhythm guitarist; he just does not think that way. He is a solo guitarist, so when you play with him it is a duel. And you know Niels, he is such an outstanding bassist. So when we three played together it was always a duel for three, always competing, and the atmosphere of a jam session. We brought out the best in each other." (For those who want to hear what Oscar meant, I advise you to listen to the Grammy-winning "The Trio" of 1973 on Pablo). Joe Pass
AvK: "I admire your courage doing a tune like Oscars: "A Little Jazz Exercise." Of course you know this tune is a fingerbreaker and a puzzle to many piano students at academies around the world."
Marian: "It's a tricky tune, certainly if you try to copy Oscar on this. I heard great piano players try to do this, but nobody succeeded because you really cannot copy Oscar Peterson. I didn't try to copy Oscar, but gave my own impression of how Oscar handled this. It's my reaction to his playing and I wished I had met him, and had discussed this with him. In 1987, I finally heard Oscar Peterson in the flesh during the annual Pori Jazz Festival, but I was too shy to approach him (Marian is a very modest guy — AvK). I wish I had known you, so you could have introduced me to him, and made my dream come true. Somehow I hope Oscar can hear what I played, because I did this album for him completely. My own opinion? I am very happy with the results. Doing this album was the happiest moment in my life."
van Kampen [AvK]” Arnold
And here are the insert notes for two of George’s 2010 Resonance Records releases: one which finds pianist Marian Petrescu in performance at the
’s Jazz Standard night club with guitar sensation Andreas Öberg with the other which features Öberg with his own group. New York
MARIAN PETRESCU – THRIVIN’: LIVE AT THE
JAZZ STANDARD [Resonance RCD-1014]
“Marian Petrescu’s Live At The Jazz Standard proves that the state of jazz piano is alive and thriving in the year 2010. The Romanian-born jazz pianist and educator pushes and prods his pianistic prestidigitation throughout this dynamic set, recorded live in
. A testament to the true universality of the jazz experience, the album deftly demonstrates that it doesn't matter where you come from, as long as you can swing like your life depends on it. And swing Petrescu does, with a vengeance. New York
"American musicians swing more and have more feeling," Petrescu tells me from his home in
. "In Finland Europe, musicians play in a more mathematical way." Whether you agree or disagree with his modest, almost self-effacing declaration, the fact remains that there is little mathematical about Petrescu s ebullient sense of swing on the albums seven strong cuts. Each brims with rhythmic ferocity and a joyous sense of melodic jubilation. His improvised lines ring-out with a pinpoint sense of precision, so much so that famed French pianist and mentor Martial Solal calls Petrescu "the Horowitz of Jazz Piano." The comparison is not lost on Petrescu, who replies unassumingly, "Horowitz is an absolutely phenomenal player. I was very happy to be compared with him."
Live At The Jazz Standard wastes no time shifting into heavy swing. The albums opener, the Oscar Peterson penned "Cakewalk," is a perfect introduction to Petrescu s cascading command of the piano, and his penchant for hard-driving, bebop-infused fare. Backed by the ace rhythm section of David Finck on bass, Mark McLean on drums, and Andreas on guitar, Petrescu manages to channel some of Petersons body-shaking swagger, while simultaneously infusing his own sense of improvisatory exploration as well. "When I was eight years-old, I heard Oscar Peterson on TV,” Petrescu says. Its obvious from the sonic results presented here
that the Canadian powerhouse pianist made an indelible impression on him.
Petrescu switches gears on the albums second track "My Romance," displaying a keen sense of harmonic ingenuity and a velvet-tinged keyboard touch. "Bill Evans was the one pianist that truly made me understand how to navigate the language of jazz piano," Petrescu says. After hearing his take on this timeless standard, (along with the albums third cut, the cyclical Evans/Davis classic "Blue In Green"), it becomes clear that Evans' sense of musical grace has found its way under Petrescu’s skin. His piano work demonstrates a symbiotic meeting of both reckless swing and hushed romanticism. One minute his assured articulation is ferocious, the next its whisper-quiet. This musical duality is what separates Petrescu from so many other competent players. He is at home across the musical and dynamic divide.
Petrescu pays tribute to Peterson again on the esteemed pianists own "Blues Etude," skating playfully across the deep-pocketed groove of Finck and McLean. He shines here as much for his musical restraint as he does for his palpable pyrotechnics, striking a delicate balance between sympathetic accompaniment and sinewy soloing. (Notice how he allows 's gritified guitar to take center stage, never trying to over-comp during his masterful solo). Insecurity on the bandstand often manifests itself in frenetic overplaying, but Petrescu plays to make the entire ensemble shine. His confidence and restraint make the music brim even more with rhythmic intensity and drive.
On Ferde Grofe’s "On The Trail," (the third movement from his Grand Canyon Suite), Petrescu demonstrates what a lifetime of classical music studies can do for a pianists technique, showering listeners with a seemingly endless torrent of notes in all directions.
A firm believer in the power of music education, Petrescu is actually a renowned educator himself, teaching both classical and jazz to students at his own music school in
. "All classical work is good for jazz musicians," Petrescu says. "I teach my students classical and jazz, and see very big possibilities for them to be great players one day." Finland
The album’s penultimate track, the bluesy "Yours Is My Heart Alone," gives each member of the crack ensemble a chance to strut-out on their own, with commanding solos by all. Finally, on Petrescu’s dazzlingly dynamic solo reading of "
," he combines church pew grace with reckless two-handed abandon, putting to rest any possible remaining doubts as to his musical mastery. Indiana
When asked what musical goals he still wants to achieve, Petrescu replies simply: "I want to be one of the known names in Piano Jazz." With the release of this stunningly impressive disc, that goal seems well within striking distance.
— Jon Regen
ANDREAS ÖBERG – SIX STRING EVOLUTION [Resonance RCD-1015]
“Swedish guitar sensation Andreas Öberg stretches his wings and flies on his latest release on Resonance Records. His most personal outing to date, Six String Evolution, showcases Öberg's virtuosity in a myriad of stylistic settings. "I like many different kinds of music," he says. "I don't like to divide music into different genres so I just try to play the music. Its just like a person who can speak many different languages but with the same personal voice."
Six String Evolution opens with an infectious Pancho Sanchez salsa number, "Papa Gato," featuring strong tenor sax contributions from Darmon Meader of the New York Voices and wordless vocals from Öberg . On the unabashedly swinging "Madame Grenouille," an up-tempo burner by pianist and former Jazz Messenger Geoff Keezer, Andreas breaks out his blistering Benson-esque chops in the company of his all-star support crew of drummer Lewis Nash, bassist John Patitucci, and pianist
Dave Kikoski, whose own solo here is a highlight.
Öberg’s brilliant version of "We'll Be Together Again," a heart-wrenching number long associated with Billie Holiday, opens with some unaccompanied six-string virtuosity, full of Lenny Breau-styled false harmonics and lush chordal voicings. The band takes a wonderfully subdued approach on this poignant, if melancholy, number as Andreas explores the harmonic terrain with streams of single notes and glistening filigrees. Patitucci offers an uncommonly melodic and expressive bass solo toward the end of the piece, and Öberg caps it off with some warm, Wes-styled octaves before unleashing a stunning cadenza marked by his signature fleet-fingered, fret-board work.
Shirting gears, they leap into an urgent funk on "Archibald's Dance," which begins with some aggressive electric bass slapping by the tunes composer, Decebel Badila. Marius Predas percussive statements on cymbalum add to the funk factor while Patitucci's resonate acoustic bass tones provide a deep groove underneath. Öberg dials up some nasty distortion on his solo here, connecting with his own fusion roots. And Kikoski—ever the harmonic subversive—takes this opportunity to push the envelope on his piano solo, dealing in dissonant voicings and odd intervallic leaps as Lewis and Patitucci keep the piece solidly grooving.
A segue to the buoyant Stevie Wonder number "From the Bottom of My Heart" gives Öberg a chance to showcase his penchant for melodicism on nylon string acoustic guitar. His beautiful playing here is underscored by Kikoski s Fender Rhodes electric piano, Patitucci s electric bass groove and Nash's steady backbeat. Though the overall mood here may border on the smoother side of jazz, Öberg holds nothing back in the chops department on this lyrical offering.
From the sublime to an alluring samba, they hop right into "Meu Bom Velho," a lively number that reflects Öberg’s fascination with Brazilian music and culture following a recent trip there. The guitarist burns on nylon string acoustic here while Meader and Kikoski offer potent solos on sax and piano, respectively. Benson's effect on Öberg is obvious on an instrumental rendition of Gino Vanelli's "Brother to Brother" (title track of the Italian-Canadian singers highly influential, platinum-selling album from 1979). This vibrant number is colored by some overdubbed violin textures from Charlie Bisharat. Kikoski also stretches here on a brilliant piano solo, which is underscored by the all-world rhythm tandem of Patitucci and Nash.
The buoyant Brazilian number "Amar a Maria" has Öberg on nylon string acoustic guitar and features the composer Filo Machado scatting a blue streak on rhythmic wordless vocals. Kikoski adds another superb piano solo on top of the authentic groove supplied by Patitucci and Nash, and Andreas kicks in a flowing, warm-toned solo.
A faithful cover of Gene McDaniels' soul-jazz anthem "Compared to What" (introduced by Les McCann and Eddie Harris on their 1969 best-selling album Swiss Movement) is sparked by Andreas' audacious, distortion-laced sweep picking, Meader's urgent sax work and Kikoski's funky, two-fisted piano work that sounds equally inspired by Professor Longhair, Les McCann, and Herbie Hancock.
Öberg 's sole original here, the serene "Dawn Ballad," is performed on acoustic guitar. Nash provides a floating kind of undercurrent with his sensitive brushes and cymbal work while Kikoski adds to the zen-like vibe of the piece with his sparse, comping (reminiscent of Bill Evans' evocative playing on "Flamenco Sketches" from Miles Davis' Kind of Blue) before taking a luminous piano solo. Patitucci also contributes another highly expressive bass solo here against the delicate support, and Andreas caresses each note on this gentle offering.
The collection closes with a surprising and uncharacteristically mellow rendition of Michael Sembello's "Maniac," the hit song from 1983’s Flashdance soundtrack. While this pulsating '80s anthem has appeared in films, never before had it been covered by a jazz artist. Öberg and company take this normally frenetic number at a subdued tempo, and the guitarist offers some of his most lyrical playing on the record. Meader contributes vocals on the chorus while special guest John Beasley adds a bracing solo on vibraphone.
Says the guitarist of his latest Resonance release: "I'm constantly working hard to become a better guitarist, musician and improviser. And I think some of my new ideas and concepts got covered on this album. It shows me evolving as an artist and musician through the six-string instrument called guitar. And it was an especially great pleasure to work with such fantastic musicians. These guys are among the very best in the world and they were all very engaged and supportive in the recording, rehearsals and the overall process."
Surrounded by such stellar talent and liberated by the concept, Öberg has taken an incremental leap in his development with Six String Evolution. - Bill Milkowski”
Given everything that he has done for Jazz over the years and, more recently, with his work at Resonance Records and The Rising Jazz Star Foundation, perhaps the best way to describe George is with the Yiddish term Mensch.
In the classic definition of the word, George is someone who deserves our esteem because he a noble man, a person of honor and integrity; he is someone to admire and emulate.
Would that it were that the world of Jazz had more of
George Klabin’s fortitude and firmness of purpose, let alone, his fundamental decency.