Piano-Heaven Award Winner:

Blue West

Philip Aaberg

Sweetgrass Music

 2005

www.philipaaberg.com

 

 

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Oh how I like this CD! A word of warning though. If your palette can only stomach soporific music, then this CD is most definitely not for you. This is sit up and take notice music, and would awaken one from even the deepest slumber.

Blues music has played a big part in Philip Aaberg's life. Indeed, he recorded six albums with Elvin Bishop in his younger days. Aaberg is at pains to point out that this is his own Blues' style- "I was never inclined to play "pure" blues, or "pure" anything.... This is a Blues record... maybe not a "pure" blues record by some definitions or store labels, but it is MY blues record... a Montana blues record." Perhaps this will give you some idea as to what to expect from this thrilling album.

"Keep Walkin’" gets the CD off to a rollicking start, with a distinctive blues feel to the track. It has a very memorable melody, and this is one of many tracks on this CD which amply demonstrates Aaberg's considerable technique. There is much to admire here! Following on from this, is the equally impressive and even more upbeat "Sea Level Shuffle (Part 1)". With dancing fingers, Aaberg is clearly as one with the piano. Many pianists can demonstrate pyrotechnics with the piano, but few can match technique with hugely impressive melodies. "Yellowstone Paddlewheel" is an interesting piece, with an illuminating insight from Aaberg himself in the linear notes. Again with reference to bringing his own unique slant on the Blues, he states about the piece, "A road doesn't always take us around the block. Occasionally, I'll abandon tradition and use what Zawinul calls "crystal structure"... organic form....[on this track] the slow, funky gospel feel comes back; it's like travelling on a river... you're on the same boat, but there's something new around every bend."

Track 4, "That Train" is another favourite. Philip Aaberg seems to compose music about trains with a passion like no other. Once again, this piece captures the thrill, the power and the energy- not to mention the rhythm- of the trains that pass through his home city (Chester, in Montana) with great frequency. "Rocky Boy Blues", as the title would suggest, is bluesy and a delight! The man's ear for a good melody doesn't let him down at all on this CD, and this track provides clear evidence of that. Track 6, "Double Back at 'Ya" is rather calmer and more laid-back to begin with, but soon develops into a more lively piece. That said, it is still one of the more reflective pieces in this collection.

One of the things I like best about this CD is the variation in the music. One never quite knows what to expect next!

"Take Your Time" has a feel of an improvisation. It is fairly slow-paced, but still makes the listener sit up and pay attention. "Blue West", the eighth track, is livelier, with a steady rhythm- but still fairly restrained by Aaberg's standards! Track 9 is most curious indeed... the opening minute or so features what sounds like a very old recording of a blues' singer, with a piece possibly entitled, "I can't sleep"- Aaberg then takes over with his own interpretation, perhaps ironically entitled, "The Dream of Montana Taylor".

My favourite cut on the entire CD is the tenth- "Little Brother". This is brilliant! A great melody, and piano played with real passion and at great tempo. Very upbeat, and a joy to listen to from beginning to end! Bravo! Fourteen Dollars is a frantic piece, with Aaberg hammering away on the ivories. I also enjoyed the penultimate track, "Sea Level Shuffle (part 2), but there is something special about the closing track, "Coyote Midnight Blues". I can picture myself in a smoky, darkened room in some US city, late at night listening to this. A great way to close the CD.

I really enjoyed this CD. It gets a lot of play-time, and deservedly so! Philip Aaberg is clearly a master of his craft. As an aside, Aaberg used a Yamaha S6 concert grand piano for this recording, which was recorded between April and June of 2005 at "The Bin" Sweetgrass Music Studios in Chester, Montana, USA.

A top-notch recording, and one that I very highly recommend.

S.C.

 

 

 

 

 

Blue West

Philip Aaberg

 

 

 

 

 

Philip Aaberg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to

 Little Brother

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