Jurgen Friedrich


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Jazz might be called "America's classical music" in some circles, but it would be a lot poorer without the participation of Europeans. From clubs to labels to musicians, Europe has offered a wealth of resources for North American improvisers -- which is why Chet Baker, Stan Getz, and Dexter Gordon spent so much time there. It's why American expatriate Steve Lacy moved to Paris. And it's why Canadian improviser Kenny Wheeler is featured on German pianist J├╝rgen Friedrich's Summer Flood. On this acoustic post-bop effort, Friedrich leads a part-European, part-North American quintet that employs Wheeler on flugelhorn, Claudius Valk on tenor and soprano sax, Volker Heinze on double bass, and Darren Beckett on drums. Wheeler's contributions to this session are undeniably valuable. Although Friedrich is in the driver's seat -- he produced and arranged Summer Flood and wrote all of the material -- Wheeler's musical personality helps to shape the CD. Wheeler is a very introspective, lyrical player, and Summer Flood just happens to be one of Friedrich's more lyrical albums. Summer Flood isn't pop-jazz, but it is more lyrical and accessible than some of Friedrich's other work. Anyone who plays Summer Flood right after listening to Surfacing (a trio date that the German pianist recorded with bassist John Hebert and drummer Tony Moreno in 1999) will notice a world of difference. Offering a healthy blend of intellect and emotion, Summer Flood isn't nearly as abstract as Surfacing. That isn't to say that one approach is more valid than the other; Summer Flood and Surfacing are both albums that Friedrich can be proud of. But those who tend to favor a less-abstract approach to post-bop will have an easier time getting into Summer Flood, which is an appealing example of European and North American improvisers finding common ground.

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