Yep, all the pieces here are inspired by and quote from Beethoven, and nope, it’s not a grumpy German kind of swung classical thing such as the Jacques Loussier Trio did with J-Seb back in the 1960s. Set against some of that Loussier stuff – very pleasant in its own way – it’s striking to hear just how much more sophisticated and subtle is a modern jazz musician’s way of re-interpreting the classical music of the past.
Ilg is a double bassist (the instrument seems to make leaping the jazz/classical gap so much easier, doesn’t it? viz. Yuri Goloubev), and he has Rainer Böhm on piano and Patrice Héral on drums.
Some song titles give teasing hints of their inspirational origins – Return To Ulster, for example, feeds upon one of Ludwig’s Irische Lieder – while others are more direct – Ode quotes, just as you have guessed, from the Ode To Joy melody in the Symphony No. 9 – but there is also a helpful list on the inside CD cover of the Beethoven pieces which are the source for each of the 13 tracks, so those nagging questions when one spots a familiar theme can be answered immediately.
But let’s assume the listener has no knowledge whatsoever of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven – this will still be a jolly satisfying modern piano trio jazz album. It’s packed with drive and rhythm, marvellous solos, especially from the fleet-fingered, wonderfully accurate Ilg himself, and the kind of three-way interaction that comes from musicians having spent a considerable time together both on the road and in the studio.
What the Beethoven elements add is some of the highest carat gold melodies music can give us, as well as some inspiring harmony. But the pieces have their own structures, their own dynamics, their own very distinct atmospheres that often have nothing at all to do with the original Beethoven elements. So, that Ode is a lyrical, gentle, fairly pensive setting of the melody, with none of the grand, anthemic quality of the tune which conveyed Schiller’s poem. It’s a very quiet, personal kind of joy.
A quiet joy actually sums up this album quite well. Sure, it has its more explosive, darker moments, just as it should with Ludwig V, but generally it is rich, rounded and pretty cheery lyricism that holds sway.
I’ve never actually been much of a Beethoven fan, but Ilg’s kind of Beethoven definitely appeals, so maybe he’s my guide back into the real thing.
Categories: CD review