2022 / ToneWork Records
Review by Kathy Parsons
Jazz Ballads is the fourth album by Gerhard Daum that I've reviewed since 2017, and each album has been a surprise - from solo piano to guitar to ensemble and now to trumpet. Daum's trumpet is the lead instrument on all of the tracks along with an ensemble that includes piano, flugelhorn, guitars and MIDI bass - all played by Daum - and drums/percussion performed by Adam Nussbaum. Daum composed and arranged all fourteen tracks and the album was recorded in Cologne and Berlin, Germany. Daum calls the style of this album "instrumental storytelling" which meshes well with his well-established career as an award-winning film music composer for US and European films and TV. The music is built around beautiful melodies and "the sonic identity of the lead instrument, the trumpet, reminiscent of legendary jazz standards and performers." By blending elements of jazz with neoclassical and cinematic music styles, Daum has effectively created a sound that is both classic and new. Most of the music is performed at a relaxed tempo and has the feeling of a well-seasoned ensemble of musicians who play together often. Well, I guess "they" do play together often, but "they" is mostly Gerhard Daum himself. This is a great album and a fascinating project!
Jazz Ballads begins with "Air," a light yet very soulful piece for trumpet and piano with upright bass and brushed drums - a great way to set the tone of the album! The cool and atmospheric "Nightbird" keeps the trumpet out in front, but the piano is right behind it along with bass and drums. "Welcome Back" picks up the tempo a bit with a sultry trumpet lead supported by acoustic guitars, bass and drums - happy and free! "Alone Together" summons images of a very romantic slow dance in a darkened room with just the dancers and musicians - this time, trumpet, piano, bass and brushed drums expressing a hint of the blues. And speaking of blues, "Road Less Traveled" combines trumpet with steel guitars, bass and drums for the theme to a movie that hasn't been made yet - a favorite! "Reel Inn" has a different flavor with muted trumpet, vintage guitars, Rhodes piano, bass and drums. A bit mysterious with a cool and aloof demeanor, it's a fun little piece! "Shades of Blue" goes much darker, this time with flugelhorn, piano, bass and brushed drums. I think something is lurking around the corner! My favorite track is "Route 96," a fantastic theme for muted trumpet, steel guitars, fretless bass and drums. Dark, intriguing and emotionally rich, I really love this one! "Soulcatcher," an elegant and bluesy duet for trumpet and piano with bass and drums, moves slowly, with grace and purpose - I really like this one, too! "Easy Living" is the perfect music for a summer afternoon or evening, hanging out with friends - or even with a good book! - enjoying life and taking it easy. "Reprise" brings the album to a close with a relaxed, soulful trumpet melody supported by piano, bass and drums. Ahhhhhhh!
Gerhard Daum appears to be the rare artist who can do just about anything and do it all well! Jazz Ballads is an album that can easily move to the background, but it also becomes more nuanced and captivating the more you listen to it with full attention. The album is available from Amazon, Apple Music/ iTunes and streaming sites like Spotify. Highly recommended!
June 15, 2022