Oct/Nov 2007  •   Reviews & Interviews

Piano & Poetry

Review by Gilbert Wesley Purdy

Piano & Poetry.
Olga Magieres.
Base Point Media. 2006. 63 min.

Olga Magieres is a classically trained and widely respected pianist. She has studied with many of Europe's finest classical pianists. Her curriculum vitae includes the Royal Danish Music Academy, in Copenhagen, and Jerusalem's Rubin Academy of Music.

Her own creative efforts are avant-garde and improvisational rather than classical. Her work has previously been included on compilation CDs released by the Danish musical forum Skraep. She has appeared in many of the finer improvisational music venues throughout Europe, in the annual White Night Festival in Tel Aviv, and is a much sought after accompanist.

Ms. Magieres's first CD, Piano & Poetry, was released in November of 2006. Joining her, to bring her musical vision to fruition, are many of Denmark's better known avant-garde musicians. Lotte Anker is on tenor saxophone, Peter Friis Nielson on electric bass, and P. O. Joergens on drums. The first two began playing together with Magieres as early as 1993 as members of the MAF Trio. Joergens has traveled in the same performance circles for years and surely recommended himself by his nuanced playing style.

Martin Klapper and Joel Leonard Katz round out the group. Klapper's specialty is musical toys and electronic music. Katz improvises from well known popular songs into lyrical regions hitherto unimagined.

Piano & Poetry opens with three tracks heavy on musical toys and electronic music. For brief moments guest vocals would seem to be supplied by R2D2. The second track, "Quintet with Klapper II," includes gratifying amounts of bluesy, wailing sax and an almost free jazz quality. While jazz sounds wander in and out of the CD, only on two occasions do they set the tone of any given piece and this is one of them.

Next up is Joel Leonard Katz singing "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" (the first of two songs to feature him). Magieres plays a straightforward rendition of the old chestnut while Katz's vocals go from a frog-ish bass, to an exaggerated falsetto, to whispering, to simply speaking the lyrics. Klapper's sound effects slowly crescendo to accompany Katz until a pounding, dissonant piano and drum set join in for a grand, chaotic finale.

The fifth track "Wednesday I," returns to the bluesy sax. With toys and intermittent piano as background, Anker's sax and Friis Nielson's bass improvise a mellow free jazz line. There are some particularly nice moments here and the listener is left wanting more.

From this point until the final track (Katz's second song) Magieres's piano grows in importance. Her program refuses to settle into a single style. Piano & Poetry is the result of an eclectic taste even indulging in suspended harmonic chords, and, at times, in snippets of outright melody.

The seventh track, "Thursday," begins with a drum and bass duet which resolves itself into a return of the sax from track 5. This, in turn, is taken over by the piano, strong, diverse, sometimes melodic, sometimes dissonant, and regularly punctuated throughout by blips from the sax.

For above an hour, in Piano & Poetry, Olga Magieres explores the various possibilities of her resources. The music is less frenzied (the Katz songs apart) than much (if not most) improvisational music. In fact, it could be called an improvised fantasia. Joergens's drum work is mostly cymbals and snares which adds to its ethereal quality.

Each piece has its own individual personalities. Played again, it may seem like a different CD as the listener focuses on a different instrument or competing tempo or her or his own mood. As Joel Leonard Katz assumes a child's voice and calls out "Bye-bye, bye-bye, bye-bye..." and the music fades, he or she will already be planning to stop back for another visit.