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Music Review: The Otmar Binder Trio – Boogie Woogie Turnaround

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The worst thing about the Otmar Binder Trio’s album Boogie Woogie Turnaround is that almost everything you are going to hear will sound very familiar. The best thing about the album is that almost everything will sound very familiar.

For many years now it is the rare musician that would have even included a boogie-woogie track on one of his albums, let alone devote an entire album to it. It is a musical genre that smacks of the past. In a world that focuses on the latest craze and the newest trends, boogie is about as old-fashioned as grandma’s rocking chair. New, however, doesn’t necessarily mean good, and old-fashioned isn’t necessarily bad. The truth is that when you listen to boogie-woogie played with passion and skill by musicians that honor the genre and its history, you have to wonder why it has fallen from grace.

Boogie Woogie Turnaround may not mark the beginning of a renaissance, but it has enough fine music to get more than a few listeners thinking a little boogie now and then could well spice up the jazz scene. The 17 tracks on the album, although filled with licks that will bring back memories to anyone who has ever listened to the likes of Pete Johnson and Big Joe Turner, are all new compositions written by pianist Binder himself or along with a collaborator. That the songs sound like they could have been written early in the last century is testimony to the authenticity of their composer’s vision.

Although the album is credited to the Otmar Binder Trio (Binder on piano, Alexander Lackner on bass, and Michael Strasser on drums), most of the tracks feature additional instrumentalists. B.J. Cole plays pedal steel and slide guitar on “Southbound,” “Rising River Boogie” and “Venice Stomp.” He also plays on the bluesy “Brighton to Boston.” Christian Dozzler plays on five of the tracks, including another blues, “Bluesprint” and the evocative “Uphill.” Both have that sweet antique vibe.

Gerry Schuller plays the Hammond B-3 organ on “Changes to Be Made,” a tune straight out of the rock and roll tradition that the album calls a bonus track. “At Last,” another bonus track which features pianist Charlie Furthner, is a much more traditional piano boogie played with verve and power. The album ends with a whole additional orchestral ensemble with strings and vocalists plus Cole’s guitar playing a final Binder original, “Floyd’s Turn.”

An Austrian, Binder says he was introduced to boogie-woogie in 1978 when his father brought home the debut album of the Mojo Blues Band called Shake That Boogie-Woogie. “As soon as the record player’s needle lifted up at the end of the record,” he says, “I started it back from the beginning.” He was eight years old at the time and, happily for us, boogie-woogie became his passion. After all, it could have been the ’70s version of The Wiggles. This is fun music. Binder understood that as a child, and as this album shows, he hasn’t forgotten it.

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