The Jazz.com Blog
September 10, 2009 · 0 comments
Unlike Benny Reid, who was tense before going on, and whose serious-faced band members channeled their energy into deadpan concentration, Michael Kaeshammer swung his arms a bit to loosen up before hitting the keys, and—sitting, turning, mugging, and grinning in white shirttails—clearly was having a ball playing superlative ragtime, stride, boogie woogie, blues, and New Orleans beats with his excellent drummer Mark McLean. The repertoire, except for two originals, was the appropriate selection of songs like "John Brown's Body," "Mardi Gras New Orleans," "Tico Tico," "Amazing Grace," and "Moonglow." His vocals on original material tend to have a touch of Harry Connick in them.
Kaeshammer’s performance was significant in many senses. First of all, it happened. Here was an act that drew on and preserved the history of American jazz, in the best way to do so—live. Furthermore, drawing on a rock solid knowledge of Teddy Wilson, Earl Hines, James P. Johnson, Fats Waller and other early great pianists, Kaeshammer did more than play the way they did. He entertained the way they did. Sidestepping hokum, he took requests (Some wise guy yelled out "Play in F# in 11." Another act did that, read on.) He had all of us singing, in spite of ourselves, as he broke into "On the Sunny Side of the Street.” This isn’t meant as sentimentality, but to say he tapped into a part of music that's almost lost—connecting deeply with the audience on a gut level, so they are no longer spectators in the music-making.
In the tradition from which he drew for this gig, Kaeshammer set up a cutting contest with his drummer, who pulled snare and throne to the piano's side, and brushes in hand, had at it. Easing from a Teddy Wilson tune into Fats Waller's "Handful of Keys," they traded beats and licks, with Kaeshammer knocking off perfect bars of the likes of "Maple Leaf Rag" and Mozart's “Turkish Dance.” A melodramatic run announced it was McLean's turn with snare and brushes, after which the piano picked up a fast stride, a badass "Swanee River," and finished off with a little Basie ending.
Good for the digestion.
This blog entry posted by Roanna Forman. For links to the rest of Forman’s coverage of the festival, click here.