Listening to Excellent European Piano Albums on Analog LPs

September 1, 2023

By Masamichi Okazaki

Many European pianists take an approach different from that of American jazz, and create elegant, lyrical beauty as their performance develops. Just as the blues was the background of American music, Europe has a long tradition of classical music, and many pianists have studied the fundamentals of classical music thoroughly, which may be the reason for this difference in expression. Let’s listen to the albums of three such European pianists, all released on analog LPs in recent years.

#226 Elegant Sounds Reminiscent of Classical Music

Torre del Lago / Roberto Olzer

Torre del Lago / Roberto Olzer
(Jazz Shinsekai JSLP-4004)

This is a solo album by Roberto Olzer, whose rich, poetic sound of the piano attracts listeners. Born in the northern Italian city of Domodossola, Olzer studied classical piano from a young age and went on to study organ at the Milan Conservatory. He also studied under Enrico Pieranunzi to work his way up to a jazz pianist. As if to demonstrate Olzer’s such a career, his performance here has elegant tastes reminiscent of classical music. Many of his albums are performed by trios or combos, but with his solo performance here, I think the beauty of his pianism is expressed in its purest form.

With the first track, <Luiza,> written by Antonio Carlos Jobim for his daughter, I was immediately drawn to its clear sound. Olzer plays the piano in an unobtrusive manner, letting the melodies lead his whole performance. The fact that he is Italian is probably a reason why we feel warm-hearted, poetic sentiments in his interpretations. What is also noteworthy is that the album includes four pieces by Giacomo Puccini, a great Italian opera composer of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Come to think of it, the album title “Torre del Lago” is the name of a beautiful town in Tuscany. It is known as a place where Puccini lived, and the “Puccini Festival” is held every year in this historic town. The album includes famous pieces such as <Mi chiamano Mimi> and <Sono andati ?> from “La Boheme,” and ones from <Suor Angelica> and <Madame Butterfly.> Olzer plays these pieces freely as if he were in a romantic world, and it is impressive that Olzer’s interpretations are as natural as his original compositions. The recording engineer was Stefano Amerio, who has created excellent recordings that clearly convey Olzer’s thoughts on the melodies.

#227 Beautiful Album by Arnold Klos, Filled with a Deep Affection for Evans

APPRECIATIONS / Arnold Klos Trio

APPRECIATIONS / Arnold Klos Trio
(Jazz Shinsekai JSLP-4003)

In my view, the Netherlands particularly has a large number of pianists of stylish and good tastes among European countries. Many players exude graceful and elegant atmospheres unique to Europe, not to mention Pim Jacobs, Louis Van Dijk, and Jos Van Beest. One thing that all three of the artists mentioned above have in common is that the piano sounds as if it holds hidden thoughts or feelings.

And Arnold Klos is one such pianist. Klos was so impressed when he happened to listen to Bill Evans’ performance one day that he decided to become a pianist. The shadow of Evans is often visible in Klos’s playing, but his interpretations are by no means copies of Evans but are expressed through the sensibilities of a Dutch pianist, for which we should say wonderful. The title of the album, “Appreciations,” must also reflect his gratitude for Evans’ music. This album is one of Klos’s old recordings, originally released on CD in 1988, but was released in the form of an analog LP this summer. <Nardis> and <Come Rain or Come Shine> are numbers also known for Evans’ performance. One of the outstanding aspects of the Euro piano is that the beautiful performances unfold the rich lyricism and give us very personal and warm feelings.

#228 Shafranov’s Recent Album Having a European Melodic Sense Here and There

How High The Moon / Vladimir Shafranov Trio

How High The Moon / Vladimir Shafranov Trio
(Venus records VHJD-223)

Vladimir Shafranov was born in Leningrad, moved to Finland to play jazz, and now lives on an island of the Aland Islands between Finland and Sweden. For this, I think we can say he is a great Euro jazz piano player. In his case, however, he has also been strongly influenced by American jazz as he spent more than a decade in New York from the mid-1980s. Even so, his orthodox interpretations with a hint of European melodic sensibility characterize his style.

Recorded in 2020 at a studio in Tullinge, a suburb of Stockholm, the album features only well-known standard numbers. <Dear Old Stockholm,> an old Swedish folk song, is of course one of his most famous tunes. His love for this piece is clearly reflected in his delicate touches. The lyricism of <When October Goes,> composed by Barry Manilow, is also hard to ignore. LPs of Venus advocate “hyper magnum sound,” and the disc for this album weighs 180g, too. A CD version is also available, but the analog LP allows listeners to enjoy vivid breaths of their performance.

About the Author

Masamichi Okazaki

Masamichi Okazaki

Surrounded by various kinds of music from his childhood, Masamichi Okazaki joined Waseda University Modern Jazz Club. He started contributing articles to music magazines when he was a student. He covers wide range of music not only trad, modern and contemporary jazz, but also from pops to classics. He writes liner notes for CDs and LPs, and is a regular contributor to “JAZZ JAPAN,” “STEREO,” and others. He joined a big band, “Shiny Stockings,” as a saxophone player. He is a director of The Music Pen Club Japan (MPCJ).