Guus Janssen


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While most would consider a record of harpsichord music by a jazz pianist to be a novelty at best, in Guus Janssen's case they would be full of sh*t. Janssen's Harpsichord album embraces the wide array of contradictions possible: He walks the gardens of jazz, deep funky blues, quaint Austrian classical music, Wagner, and late 20th century European "serial" music and keeps something from all of them in his basket. The "Preladium" alone courses through every one of these styles seamlessly and somehow manages to remain not only interesting but also positively compelling -- especially the deep blues riff in the middle. Elsewhere, on "Ostinato 1" he uses a six-note bass figure to capture all of the elemental harmony structures that can be built in three- and four-note chords on each of those notes while never delineating from the pitch or meter in the piece. There are others here, such as "One Bar" and "Pogo 3," that examine the instrument itself purely from a tonal perspective and use its limitations -- its stiff keyboard and lack of reverberation -- against it. Janssen clips his notes and bleeds them into others seemingly without variation until we glimpse the harmonic architectures shifting all over the place, and when this happens in a hard bop blues-meets-boogie-woogie stomp, as it does in one bar, the results are no less than dizzying. This is the only harpsichord disc you need to own. Period. Bravo, Guus.

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