December 21, 2015
Riding on the Boogie Woogie of Life
At 27, Danish keyboardist-composer Jeppe Zeeberg has chops to spare. But listening to Riding on the Boogie Woogie of Life may cause some to wonder, like the old Wendy’s slogan: “Where’s the Beef?”
Having set up a unique configuration on eight tracks playing piano, spinet, organ and synthesizer, backed by the dual basses of Casper Nyvang Rask and Adam Pultz Melbye and two percussionists, Håkon Berre and Rune Lohse, Zeeberg obviously knows how to program an exciting LP. But like the medium on which it’s pressed, the showy tunes often suggest that they’re close cousins to prefabrication instrumental pop of the 1950s and 1960s. In fact, some of the percussion and keyboard textures echo smash and vibrate enough that they could be the aural equivalents of the luminescent hues that characterized comic books of the era. This concept become particularly egregious when surveying the clumping drum beats that follow the clanging spinet introduction to “Die Wahrheit” or the turgidly magniloquent drumming on “In Medias Res” that suggests it could be designed to demonstrate a stereo’s range rather than logically extent the narrative. Added to that are tracks such as the introductory “A Machine You Should Have Patented”, where the cumulative textures don’t sound as much arranged as panned – more studio creations that lock into place as various whooshing strings and choke-a-block smacks promote the infinite possibilities of these instruments. Is this LP a future Audio Fidelity-like collector’s item?
Working up to firing all pistons, Zeeberg and company can move away from outlandish and eccentrically tones that touch on exotica to present a credible program of compelling sounds. But these are sounds that move but don’t swing. Awash with strings pulsating with banshee-like cries and platinum-hard drum beats, the obtuse simplicity of themes such as “Christmas in Brown and Grey” are hidden. In the same way, Zeeberg’s piano pressure is such that it’s reminiscent of Dave Brubeck’s bombast rather than Cecil Taylor’s dynamics. He fares better with the romantically tinged tone poem that is “Still Life without Flowers”. Here, mercurial theme variations again stress expertise over empathy.
Still, the pianist is inordinately skilled as he demonstrates on the two run-throughs of the title song. Slyly titled after Earl Hines' “Boogie Woogie on St. Louis Blues”, like a veteran personal trainer, Zeeberg knows how to build up the tension to almost unbearable levels then let the dynamics subside. Especially effective is when he interpolates variations of Monk’s “Played Twice” with one hand, while expanding the initial theme with the other. Cross-handed, syncopated and flashy, like an astronaut exploring the moon’s surface, he ranges all over the keyboard. Yet there may be a little too much surface in his interpretation rather than emotional tone experiments.
Overall the disc is a great showcase for Zeeberg’s talents and ability to create rhythmically adhered party-style music. It’s likely however that becoming a Danish Ramsey Lewis isn’t the keyboardist’s ambition. Perhaps next time out his playing and composing will challenge himself and the listener more profoundly.
Track Listing: 1. A Machine You Should Have Patented 2. Die Wahrheit 3. Still Life with Flowers 4. Riding On the Boogie Woogie of Life (Part I) 5. Still Life without Flowers 6. In Medias Res 7. Christmas in Brown and Grey 8. Riding on the Boogie Woogie of Life (Part II)
Personnel: Jeppe Zeeberg (piano, spinet, organ and synthesizer); Casper Nyvang Rask and Adam Pultz Melbye (bass); Håkon Berre and Rune Lohse (drums and percussion)