What a nice surprise it is to see an American label such as Arbors venturing to Europe to record a German pianist like Bernd Lhotzky, who is well versed in stride and swing piano. Recorded in an acoustically stunning German concert hall on a superb instrument, Lhotzky delves into a mix of standards, stride piano gems, and a number of songs that have been unjustly overlooked for too long. He devours the repertoire of the great Willie "The Lion" Smith, covering Smith's well-known ("Echo of Spring") and less frequently performed ("Fussin'," "Fading Star," "Rippling Waters," and "Passionate") compositions with the flair of a seasoned veteran, though Lhotzky was only in his mid-thirties at the time of these sessions. He is up to the challenge of James P. Johnson's romping "Caprice Rag" and also delivers subtle yet dynamic interpretations of Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz" and "Keepin' Out of Mischief Now" (the latter complete with the frequently omitted verse). One of the most obscure songs on this release is Duke Ellington's "There Was Nobody Looking" (from "The Deep South Suite"). Lhotzky's playful setting would likely have pleased its composer. The CD is full of other gems as well, including several picturesque selections such as Eastwood Lane's "Adirondack Sketches" and a heartfelt, gorgeous rendition of Willard Robison's ballad "Old Folks," along with a buoyant performance of Hoagy Carmichael's "Jubilee" that would have turned heads during the heyday of the Harlem stride piano ticklers. Bernd Lhotzky has clearly spent his time playing these songs, as he finds fresh avenues in each of the 23 outstanding tracks heard on this solo piano CD.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden