Michael Jackson seems to be in the headlines for all the wrong reasons these days. Rüdiger Baldauf’s Jackson Trip was actually released in 2017, but with the current Jackson Art retrospective at Bundeskunsthalle, now is the perfect time for the top trumpeter from Bensberg to bring a part of Jackson that is in no dispute back in the public eye – his incredible contribution to Funk/Soul and Pop music.
Arriving for tonights Dottendorfer Jazznacht, there is already a good sized audience. Word has clearly got around that the Ortszentrum is a good place to be for Jazz fans. Most of them will know that Rüdiger Baldauf is a quality act on the Jazz circuit. You might even have seen Baldauf in the band supporting Barbra Streisand at Lanxess Arena in 2013. The list of musicians he’s backed reads like a who’s who of modern music history: Gianna Nannini, James Brown, Ray Charles, Liza Minnelli… as a part of Stefan Raab’s televesion band The Heavytones, Baldauf has also accompanied the likes of Lionel Richie and Cecilia Bartoli, so the Man clearly knows his music, and what most captivates him musically. Since 2017 that has very much been Michael Jackson.
Baldauf apparently doesn’t classify himself as a musical innovator – more of a ‘Pop-Jazz’ player. On his website, though there is info about a ‘soundfreak’ mouthpiece designed to alter the way air flows through the trumpet which certainly sounds like someone into innovation to me. But if he’s not innovating, then he most certainly is interpreting to great effect, as tonights show aptly demonstrates. At his feet is an array of foot pedals – guitar pedals actually he tells me later – that are used throughout the show. We’re not talking screaming wah wah here I should add, mainly subtle changes in sound. Interesting though all the same, and I’d love to hear more about the use of pedals in Jazz trumpet.
Bottom line of course is how/if it all comes together musically, and there is certainly a high carat band making sure it all comes out very smoothely indeed! I particularly enjoyed the rhythm section of Marius Goldhammer and Thomas Heinz who clearly have some rock music in their jazz genes. Goldhammer’s use of a classic Fender Jazz Bass gives the music a suitably deep funky dance/Jackson attitude, whilst Heinz is a hard hitter on the drumkit. No feathery swirls with brushes for him this evening – he has a pair of chunky Vic Firth sticks in his hands and knows how to use them. From the varied expressions on his face, clearly he enjoys using them too. Christian Frentzen adds the icing of cool understatement to the sound; and then, of course, Baldauf is there with his trumpet (and on ‘They Don’t Really Care About Us, also on trombone) to pick out the melody that reassures us which Jackson classic is being played – and just quickly take us off course again with his innovation, just to finally bring the piece safely back into recognizable territory and huge, well deserved, applause.
Most of tonight’s material is of course centred on the ‘Jackson Trip’ album, although ‘Funky Nr 5‘ shows that Rüdiger Baldauf has his own style and material at a quality that got him those gigs with such illustrious names. It’s clear tonight though that he and the band love to de- and re-construct recogniizable pop melodies. When later bassist Marius Goldhammer says the motivation for this project comes because “We all like the music” and then suggests maybe the same could be done with the Beatles it’s actually a tantalising thought. For tonight though we are priveleged to be hearing Michael Jackson’s music with new and appreciative ears. from a top notch band.
The deep meaty tones of ‘Beat It’ are great to hear, and actually, did I detect some wah wah on that trumpet solo? There is plenty of room for area specific interpretation of Jackson on offer this evening. A Balkan ‘Billie Jean’, a ‘Southern States’ ‘Black or White’, and even a visit to New Orleans for ‘They Don’t Really Care About Us’ with Baldauf showing himself no slacker in the trombone department.
Some excellent moments in part one then, but part two seemed to have even more of an exploratory air. ‘Rock With You’ certainly saw the whole band back onstage and rock solid, with a bang that made the slow burning ‘Man In The Mirror’ that followed particularly striking with it’s smoky ‘Round Midnight’ introspective feel: swirling electric piano and muted trumpet were order of the day here. ‘Remember The Time’ saw the whole band rocking out on top form, with a great bass solo from Marius Goldhammer just stealing first place for best moment of the tune, if not indeed the evening. That award might also go to Baldauf’s boogie trumpet on ‘Beat It’. An encore of ‘Thriller’ with background voices picking up on the Vincent Price talk-over of the Jackson original brought a hugely enjoyable evening to a barnstorming close.
Many, many great tunes. So many in fact that, as Baldauf concluded late in the evening “We could have made a triple album”. He added with a smile: but that would have been too expensive!”. Shame. I’m not a fan of cover music for cover’s sake, but when someone takes the original and runs with it in new directions, then I am a fan. I am certainly a fan now of Rüdiger Baldauf.
The next Dottendorfer Jazznacht is on 3 May with The Marion & Sobo Band featuring Yoshinao Mikami.
Full Dottendorfer Jazznacht details HERE