Osnabrück Jazz Saxophonist Tommy Schneller came to my attention via Henrik Freischlader’s Cable Car Records in 2011. Knowing that Henrik cares about the music at least, if not more than, the money (at the time his roster was just Schneller and Layla Zoe) I knew Schneller would be worth a listen and both 2011’s ‘Smiling for a reason’ and 2014’s ‘Cream of the Crop’ were super Jazz/Funk CD’s that deserved a much bigger public than they got. With the new release ‘Backbeat’ Schneller has again come up with a disc to get your feet tapping and your hips swaying – and maybe, just maybe, will get the sales he so richly deserves.
Timezone it has to be said is also a small company, but with clear ambitions laid out on their website:
“The marketing of alternative pop music requires alternative approaches. Surprises, Passions, Perhaps guerrilla marketing – maybe something else entirely. Definitely a new way of thinking”.
Backbeat follows the previous releases from Schneller with funky jazz numbers given a warm and welcoming note via whiskey/cigarette soaked vocals delivered in English but often a New Orleansian feel.
First surprise though is the first sound on the disc, the glissando of Jens Filsers slide intro on title-track ‘Backbeat’. Next surprise up is the hard driving Rock sound that pushes the track along. “Long live the backbeat, long live the Blues”. The extra funky bass running alongside keeps a vestige of the Jazz/Funk sound I was expecting but there’s a lot of Bad Company period Rock here – and I love it.
The Rock calms down after this to give way to a funky sound that, despite a large band, always has room to breathe. There’s a chunky Hammond warmth and hard swinging horn/trumpet section that forms the root of pretty much everything on here. As a big Saxophone fan I initially found myself wondering why there isn’t more sax from the man himself, but heck the band is rolling along so smoothly that I don’t care. Schneller fits the music to the songs and not vice-versa. If it needs sax it gets it and if not – well, this band can handle pretty well anything the songwriters throw at it. A Brunswick bar gets name-checked in the fun roll along ‘Typsy’s’ and the horn score here deserves applause – I wanna visit Typsy’s!
There’s a brief brief break from the pulsating rhythm with ‘Barefootin’’ a simple acoustic number that sounds timeless although it’s actually a Schneller/Hirte composition. Nice duetting from Dorrey Lin Lyle ices the musical cake.
Indeed the whole disc is a gem of blowing horns, pumping bass, razor sharp guitar and warm keyboard runs and that in itself would make it a great CD. I love Tommy’s vocal style too though, there’s a warmth about his tone and accent. A sincerity that’s nowhere more apparent than on the albums most killer track ‘Cold Attitude’. “I’ll tell you things in general, that’s why I wrote this song” is an early lyric in a song blasting the cold ‘Me, myself, I’ society we seem to be sinking into. It’s an attitude “that all comes back” on us as Tommy points out. A killer song, killer rhythm and even a killer guitar solo from Jens Filser. An anthem to the early 21st Century if ever there was one. Give this one to Mick Jagger and see it become a Rock classic. Luckily, you know about it from me, so go out and give it a listen – you won’t regret it. Something I can say for the whole of this CD, Chock full of great tunes, intelligent lyrics and inspired musicianship it really deserves to be a huge hit.
As a recognition of this Timezone and Schneller really are making concerted efforts to get this CD and it’s songs the recognition that the previous releases didn’t quite achieve from the public. Three tracks on the disc are also available on an extra disc in German language – most poignantly ‘Arschkalte Art’ (Cold Attitude). Released last year to accompany the documentary film project ‘Newcomers’ by Syrian Refugee Anis Hamdoun the track has already received media attention. Thankfully so has the new CD – ‘Backbeat’ has, at the time of writing this, been awarded a Deutsche Schallplattenkritik Award.
The German language releases should help find a market and radio play here in Germany but for me they lose something of the warm sparkle that makes Tommy Schneller’s voice a pleasure to hear. (can a voice, like an eye, have a glint in it? If anyone’s can it’s this mans.
Intelligent songs, great tunes, funky bass, cutting blues/rock guitar , a whirlwind of a horn section, it’s all here on what is already on my shortlist for CD of the year.