The year was 1984, and with the ink barely dry on her high school graduation certificate, and ready to step out into the world, what should a young German Fräulein do next? With her examination results easily high enough to allow entry to medical school, possibly a medical career beckoned. On the other hand, perhaps a few months spent experiencing great cities like London or Paris or maybe even New York, would be a reward for all those hard years at school. No, not so, Barbara Dennerlein! With graduation certificate in her pocket, and not yet 20 years old, she goes straight into a recording studio to record this, already her second album, and the first released on her own Bebab label.
The album title “Orgelspiele” is one of those dreaded compound words that the German language is famous for. Orgel, of course, means organ, and Spiele can mean either “to play” or “a child’s game”. Here it is a play on words that can mean “playing the organ” and also “playing with the organ”. The playful title perfectly fits this eclectic collection of musical gems, just as it does the effortless ease with which the impossibly young Miss Dennerlein’s hands and feet fly over the keys and pedals. As one can see from the track listing, it is pointless to attempt to fit this young virtuoso into a specific musical category, or to pigeonhole her stylistic preferences which owe nothing to the great masters of the organ that came before her.
Reviewing the titles on the album’s track listing, it is clear that Barbara likes a challenge! The album opens with Dave Brubeck’s famous “Blue Rondo á la Turk” with its fearsomely difficult 9/8 time signature. This is just a hint of the musical diversity to come. We are treated to jazz standards by Burt Howard and Joe Henderson; a modern jazz classic by Chick Corea; Leon Russell’s haunting “This Masquerade” (a smash hit made famous by guitarist George Benson), and even a rock-influenced hit from Stevie Wonder. Then comes a surprise…. two classical pieces by Bach and Chopin played in a modern style that, amazingly, fit right in. Finally, we are treated to three of Barbara’s own compositions, the introspective “Recreation”, a swinging “Asinus Phi”, and the uptempo “Eternal Voyage”. The common thread among these very different compositions is the interpretations and the arrangements that each reflect Barbara’s unique style and personal musical ideas.
Barbara is supported on this musical journey of discovery by three highly talented young musicians of the Munich jazz scene: Jörg Widmoser on violin, Peter Wölpl on guitar, and Harald Rüschenbaum on drums. But who’s playing that killer bass, you might ask. Another surprise! It’s Barbara herself on bass pedals, delivering complex bass lines that could easily make many bass players green with envy!
Looking back more than 25 years ago when this CD was originally released to the German market on vinyl, it is clear that this young woman was soon to become known the world over. So, in retrospect, it’s lucky for music fans in general, and devotees of the venerable Hammond B3 in particular, that Barbara did not enter medical school, or go on that holiday to London or Paris, or even to that bastion of jazz, New York. But travel to those cities came soon enough, with concerts all over the world, including several visits to New York to record three hugely successful CDs for the Verve label.
So sit back, close your eyes and listen, as a young Barbara Dennerlein takes you on a memorable musical journey, soon to become a personal treasure.
(by Robert Wilson)
Barbara Dennerlein organ & footpedal bass
Harald Rüschenbaum drums
Peter Wölpl git
Jörg Widmoser vio