Achim Kaufmann 2nd Release, 'Later,' on Pirouet Records [REVIEW]

By Mike Greenblatt | Oct 29, 2015 01:03 PM EDT
Pianist Achim Kaufmann covers Syd Barrett on new solo piano CD, 'Later.' (Photo : courtesy Pirouet Records)

For German pianist Achim Kaufmann's second solo piano CD and fourth over-all after four other impressive outings as a sideman, the Berlin-based composer has stretched himself to the point of absurdity...but it works. To interpret the non-interpretable is Kaufmann's stock-in-trade on Later (Pirouet Records). To that end, he does a masterful job in covering one of the most oddball of all British rock stars, Pink Floyd's original singer/songwriter/guitarist Syd Barrett [1946-2006]. "Dominoes" was on Barrett's self-titled 1970 solo album. Only the most hardy of Barrett aficionados will even recognize it, but, as pop star Robyn Hitchcock said on a BBC profile of Barrett where he sang it, "this is a really good one when it starts to rain."

Interestingly enough, Kaufmann closes his 12-song Later with Bob Dylan's 1965 "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," a tune that-if you had to pick-is one not exactly conducive to a jazz interpretation. Yet, again, Kaufmann makes it work. He coaxes Dylan's melody out of its rabbit hole to make it stand alone for the first time in half a century without lyrics.

Herbie Nichols [1919-1963] wrote "Lady Sings The Blues" but was mostly unknown during his short life. He also just happens to be one of Kaufmann's musical heroes. Kaufmann not only covers his "Shuffle Montgomery" but includes his "Portrait Of Ucha" as a prelude to Hans Eisler's "In Den Weiden." The two pieces fit seamlessly despite the fact that they seem 180 degrees diametrically opposed. Or are they? Maybe it's just Kaufmann's genius that makes them palatable enough to be conjoined.

Kaufmann's only other solo piano CD, Knives, was 11 years ago. There's a world of difference in his playing now. He says in the liner notes that he likes unaccompanied creativity since "every tone is so exposed" and he digs leaving "a place for the silence between the tones." This is most evident on Thelonious Monk's "Misterioso" and Duke Ellington's "The Mystery Song." One of his five originals, "The Embalmer's Waltz," was inspired, he says, by Charles Mingus and Eric Dolphy. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

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