Simon Tedeschi has been described as one of the best exponents of George Gershwin’s music but none other than legendary harmonica player Larry Adler, and it’s easy to see why when you listen to this double disc set.
If you were looking for an alternative title for this disc one could be forgiven for calling it Gershwin Miniatures, as most of these wonderful works are around two minutes in length.
It’s a lot like listening to Chopin Preludes only more entertaining (with no disrespect to Chopin).
Many lesser known works are performed here and they are all delightful, each with it’s own personality and statement to make.
But tunes from Gershwin’s many musicals are also featured, including Porgy and Bess, A Damsel in Distress, Show Girl, The French Doll and Shall We Dance.
The Promenade that opens the disc shows Tedeschi’s great dramatic flair and also his wonderful sense of humour, with pauses at just the right moments.
He brings all the different melodic ideas to life so well that can almost picture different characters, especially with the buoyant and somewhat cheeky melody in the left hand.
(To see Tedeschi in all of his dramatic colours see one of his Baby’s Proms Shows – Pianist & Prankster- which the Sydney Opera House approached him to create).
A magical atmosphere is created in Prelude (Novellette in Fourths) which is written as Rag with classical elements and pays homage to Ravel with its consecutive fourths; Do-Do-Do from Oh Kay! is as full of life as it is short, at one minute and 16 secs.
Jazzbo Brown Blues opens with strident cluster chords in demanding rhythms a la Stravinsky and displays Tedeschi’s dazzling technique.
Trumpet player James Morrison features on the next track, Nice Work If You Can Get It, from A Damsel in Distress.
His mournful flugelhorn playing is very evocative and you can just see and smell the dusty old streets of the South on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Known for his impressive high notes and loud playing, it’s wonderful to hear a thoughtful and pensive performance from this very famous Australian jazz musician.
Back to solo piano we hear Merry Andrew, a quick and light-footed work, followed by Liza from All the Clouds’ll Roll Awaywith its beautifully expansive opening and Three-Quarter Blues (also known as the Irish Waltz), a beautiful melody using the minor key, creating a real jazz feel.
Tedeschi’s affinity with Gershwin is clear, and he himself says he feels a strong connection to the composer, as Gershwin came from a Russian Jewish family who moved to the US, and Tedeschi is from a Polish Jewish family who moved to Australia.
Put your seat belt on for Impromptu in Two Keys, which is done at a breath-taking pace.
Tedeschi has worked closely with jazz pianist Kevin Hunt, and this influence is evident in I’ll Build A Stairway to Paradise. The wonderful sense of freedom created and overall jazz feel make it difficult to believe that Tedeschi is classically trained.
His amazing physical control over the keyboard comes to the fore in his exquisite use of soft dynamics in Dolt Again from Oh Kay!
Sarah McKenzie’s rendition of Embraceable You sounds like it was recorded in a late night jazz club in New York with her seductively husky tone and Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off shows off the amazing talent of both artists.
A pensive introduction is followed by a quick-paced reading of this famous tune. Lovely inflexions in the pronunciation of the lyrics and stunning solos by Tedeschi make this take a real favourite.
A disc of Gershwin wouldn’t be complete without Rhapsody in Blue, and we hear it here for solo piano (on disc one we hear Tedeschi paying it with the Queensland Symphony).
In the cover notes Simon Tedeschi says he allowed himself to explore Gershwin ‘the supreme texturalist’ in this solo rendition.
He achieves this and more, with a brilliant performance.
At times it sounds as though more than one person is playing, there is so much going on, but this amazing Australian pianist handles all the layers wonderfully, highlighting the different voices with flair and with great care.
A stunning disc!
Meldi Arkinstall, CD-Music Reviews, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015
Simon Tedeschi Gershwin & Me – Purchase