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Olivia Trummer / Jean-Lou Treboux Duo

Olivia Trummer / Jean-Lou Treboux Duo, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 20/03/2016

Photography: Photograph sourced from the Black Mountain Jazz website [url=][/url]

by Ian Mann

March 24, 2016


Trummer is a supremely accomplished pianist and composer who has now added the art of singing to her armoury. Hers is a star that is surely destined to continue to rise.

Olivia Trummer / Jean-Lou Treboux Duo, Black Mountain Jazz, Melville Centre, Abergavenny, 20/03/2016.

Pianist and vocalist Olivia Trummer was born in Stuttgart into a musical family and studied both jazz and classical piano at the University of Music in her home city. She subsequently studied for a Masters Degree in Jazz Piano at the Manhattan School of Music and she now divides her time between New York and Berlin.

A frequent award winner Trummer has recorded six albums to date and collaborates with a variety of musicians from both Europe and the US. Her 2014 album “Fly Now” features the New York based musicians Mat Penman (bass) and Obed Calvaire (drums) and includes a guest appearance by guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel. Others with whom Trummer has collaborated include trumpeter Matthias Schriefl and drummers Jimmy Cobb, Bodek Janke and Wolfgang Haffner. Her music has also been arranged for big band by Wolf Kerschek and Trummer appeared alongside the NDR Big Band as a featured piano and vocal soloist.

Trummer’s latest album “Classical to Jazz”, released on the German Neuklang label, sees her returning to her classical roots. She originally learned classical music by ear and the album includes her adaptations of music by Scarlatti, Mozart and Bach. Her musical partner on the project that has become known as “C2J” is the Swiss vibraphonist Jean-Lou Treboux, another musician who divides his time between New York and Europe. The duo was formed in 2012 with the first C2J recording being released in 2015. As well as leading his own Jean-Lou Treboux Group the vibraphonist has also worked with trumpeters Eddie Henderson and Flavio Boltro, trombonists Glenn Ferris and Grachan Moncur III, flautist Linda Jozefowski and drummers Alvin Queen and Jochen Rueckert. 

Trummer and Treboux brought the C2J project to Abergavenny as part of a short UK and Ireland tour supported by the Embassy of Switzerland in Ireland. This was the only Welsh date and it represented something of a coup for Black Mountain Jazz to bring artists of this calibre to the Melville Centre. Most of the dates had been in larger auditoriums such as Liverpool’s Capstone Theatre although the duo were due to play a club date the following evening at London’s famous Pizza Express Jazz Club, the final night of the tour. 

The majority of the venues had a resident grand piano for Trummer to play but attempts to hire an acoustic instrument for her use at the Melville proved fruitless and instead she deployed a Yamaha digital keyboard. It wasn’t ideal but Trummer made light of any perceived difficulties and impressed everybody with the quality and inventiveness of her playing. A true professional, she also presented the performance with considerable wit and charm and won herself a lot of new admirers in this corner of South Wales.

Trummer started her jazz career purely as an instrumentalist but was inspired to sing after witnessing a performance by the acclaimed bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding. Until “C2J” her albums had become increasingly song based with “Fly Now” being a collection of songs based upon her experiences of living in New York.

Unusually for BMJ audience members were handed a printed programme upon entering the hall, rather like at a classical concert. The first item on the agenda was Trummer’s “Autumn Again”, the only conventional song on the “C2J” album, a piece with a standards feel that introduced Trummer’s warm but flexible vocals and included instrumental solos from both musicians with Treboux deploying two mallets, more Milt Jackson than Gary Burton.

“We are jazz musicians, we are spontaneous people” announced Trummer gleefully as the duo abandoned the printed programme to deliver Trummer’s arrangement of the standard “Nature Boy” featuring both spoken word and scat vocals plus a four mallet solo from Treboux.

The pair now returned to the meat of the programme with “Scarlattacca”, a composition credited to Trummer but inspired by Domenico Scarlatti’s “Sonata K 209 in A major”. Introducing the piece Trummer spoke of her classical training and of how it was her intention to be able to “blend into both worlds”. The piece began with a strict transcription of Scarlatti’s music on piano before mutating subtly into something of Trummer’s own creation with the introduction of vibraphone and wordless vocals. Treboux undertook a two mallet vibes solo and there was a further passage of unaccompanied piano before the two musicians coalesced again to conclude the piece with a flourish with Trummer’s wordless vocals supplementing the piano and vibes.

Also credited to Trummer was the “Mozartlichkeiten Suite” inspired by the “Sonata KV 331 in A major” by none other than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This time it was Treboux’s turn to introduce the piece, his passage of unaccompanied vibes including the kind of pitch bending techniques pioneered by Burton back in the 1960s. With the addition of Trummer’s keyboard Mozart’s familiar melody began to emerge, this in turn leading to jazz style solos for piano and vibes. The three parts of the Mozart piece were punctuated by improvised “Transitions” for unaccompanied piano and vibes. Taken as a whole the suite was something of a tour de force and the duo were given a great reception by the appreciative Abergavenny audience as they went into the break.

During the interval the approachable Trummer chatted happily with audience members and CD sales were correspondingly brisk.

The second set began with Trummer departing from the printed programme again as she returned to the stage alone to play and sing “All Is Well”, one of the songs from the “Fly Now” album.
As Treboux came out join her they segued into the beautiful “Watching The Moon”, another song from the same album with a delightful ‘after hours’ ambience and the feel of a jazz standard. As well as Trummer’s effective and affecting vocalising the piece also included instrumental solos from both musicians, Treboux once again deploying the four mallet technique.

The bulk of the second half consisted of Trummer’s suite “Paraphrase” inspired by the “Partita No. 1 in B flat major” by Johann Sebastian Bach. This was comprised of six movements but was performed as a single entity and was introduced by Trummer as “a baroque / jazz fusion”. Here the sense of genuine dialogue between the musicians was most pronounced with Treboux being allowed plenty of improvisational freedom as Trummer nailed down the basic structure of the piece. The occasional passages of ‘straight’ classical music were punctuated by jazz solos from both instrumentalists plus highly interactive jazz variations featuring the musical conversations of the two players. Between them Trummer and Treboux built up an impressive level of swing from their classical sources.

The deserved encore was Trummer’s classically inspired arrangement of the Cole Porter tune “Night and Day” which featured some superb instrumental interplay between piano and vibes plus Treboux taking a two mallet solo and Trummer breaking out into song again with a further demonstration of her impressive scatting technique. 

The technical facility of the two musicians was never in question and the duo were awarded with a highly enthusiastic reaction from the Abergavenny audience with one regular declaring it to be the best gig he’d ever seen at BMJ. 

My own response was a little more muted, I came to jazz from a rock background and the duo’s music, as good and interesting as it was, was still a little too ‘classical’ for my personal tastes. The absence of an acoustic piano was also a disappointment although I appreciate that hiring one for the event was never going to be economically feasible.

Nevertheless it was still a pleasure to see Olivia Trummer perform in Abergavenny. She is a highly versatile musician, a supremely accomplished pianist and composer who has now added the art of singing to her armoury. With these talents combined with her ability to communicate with an audience hers is a star that is surely destined to continue to rise. Bigger stages almost certainly await Olivia Trummer and BMJ were very lucky to have the opportunity of hosting her.

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