Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pianist Markus Burger's : Accidental Tourists The L.A. Sessions

Accidental Tourist: The L.A. Sessions CR 73332

German expatriate Markus Burger is a new name to me, but if his latest album Accidental Tourists : The L.A. Sessions   is any indication he has won me over as a fan. The pianist has assemble a top notch trio that includes former Bill Evans drummer Joe Labarbera and the big and beautiful bass of    
Bob Magnusson a studio musician who worked with saxophone legend Art Pepper. Burger currently teaches in the Los Angeles area. His bio information indicates that he acknowledges wide ranging influences from Bach and Debussy to Thelonious Monk and Stevie Wonder.

On the opening composition ”Grolnicks,”  a dedication to the late pianist Don Grolnick, Burger establishes an immediate connection to his listener with the song’s inviting melody line, played at first solo and then breezily in conjunction with his tasteful collaborators. Bob Magnusson’s honey toned bass solo is a welcome surprise as it is quickly introduced with a conviction and fullness that reminds me of Red Mitchell’s masterful sound and attack. Drummer Joe Labarbera sets the pace with his masterful brushwork. Burger’s piano has a welcoming and buoyant sound that draws you into this wonderful collaboration.

“Air Canada” has a lilting feel that reminds me of some of Pat Metheny’ s earlier work with pianist Lyle Mays. It is a hopeful song that is energized by Burger’s light and dancing right hand lines and propelled by Magnusson’s deep and prominently featured bass lines. Labarbera reminds us how good and subtle he can be  at creating a breezily swinging rhythm with minimal fanfare or bluster.

Burger uses the repeating ascending and descending lines of his composition “Black Sea Pearl” to create a sense of poignancy. The trio moves up and down in tandem as Burger creates interesting offshoots to the otherwise predictable ostinato pattern in the song.

Full Circle” begins in an almost solemn, contemplative refrain. Burger impressionistically establishes the circularly repeating melody line. Magnusson’s bass anchors strong and clear, the perfect counterpoint to Burger’s probings outside the self created orbit. Magnusson’s bass becomes a beacon of sound that emanates from the center of this crafted circle with his warm, precise tone..Labarbera adds to the circular theme of the song with his whirling traps and his whooshing cymbal work.

The Gershwin classic “I Love You Porgy,” is rendered in the most sensitive of ways by Burger’s soulful playing. Magnusson’s evocative solo is a highlight. The bassist’s  ability to carry the melody with his warm, deep tone and evocative feeling is a joy to behold. Burger, inspired here by his deft partners, creates a cascading solo that is both inventive and moving.

With the title of the album reference to Los Angeles, it’s no surprise to hear the west coast influence peppered through  this offering. Two songs that seem to draw inspiration from the early trio work of the late great LA based pianist Hampton Hawes are the swinging “Rodeo Drive Hustler” and the quirky, rollicking “Inspector Bauton”. The quick paced repeating lines are played effervescently with great swinging support by Labarbera and Magnusson. Both tunes have that easy, effortless mastery of rambunctious swing that Hawes work epitomized. It is good to hear a boisterous drum solo from Labarbera who is a master of brushes and rarely lets loose on his traps.

Perhaps one of the most beautiful songs on the album is the trio’s stirring rendition of “The Old Country,” a song always identified with  Nancy Wilson’s great work with Nat and Cannonball Adderley. Burger uses the armature of the melody to weave his own rich tapestry from this emotionally thick song. Magnusson is once again brilliant in using his facile bass lines to create pathos. His rounded, romantic sound and his counterpoint lines at the coda are both superbly chosen and sublimely executed.

The magnificent Evans composition “Blue and Green” is always a favorite of piano trios and here  Burger uses Evans-like voicings in his opening that eventually give way to explorations that are reminiscent of Keith Jarrett's work. Burger’s fertile imagination is prodded by gentle bent notes from Magnusson’s bass and slowly built up urgency in Labarbera’s traps. It is a wonderful display of true sympathetic trio interaction. Magnusson’s bass solo is  remarkably facile as he shifts from rapidly executed pizzicato  to slowly sustained bent notes that flow like melting butter on warm toast.

The album ends with two songs one by Thomas Hoft titled “One World”  and the finale a Burger composition titled “Morning Smile.”

Markus Burger has managed to pleasantly surprise with Accidental Tourists: The L.A. Sessions.  The album continues to be capture attention even after  repeated listenings. Burger is a player who has absorbed some of the best influences of contemporary and classical music. His musical choice of materials from the standards repertoire is  astute and his compositions like “Grolnicks” and “Full Circle” show promise. It is the sympathetic whole of this trio that is the real find here. Together with Magnusson and Labarbera, Burger has hit upon a trio that can challenge the best on  the contemporary music scene. Accident's do happen and sometimes they produce marvelous results, my hope is that this is no accident and that the Markus Burger Trio continue to work together to explore the endless possibilities.


  1. Ram,
    Great Blog and Wonderful sound sample.

  2. Markus Burger plays beautifully. I hope to hear more!