This is one of those delightful surprises that remind us why some of us are music obsessives, forever searching for the fresh and the exciting, for that unique, individual voice. Otmar Binder is Dutch, Boogie Woogie Turnaround was recorded in Austria, and every tune, despite being written or co-written by Binder and fellow Dutchman Christian Dozzler or English pedal-steel master BJ Cole, is distinctly American in character.
Yet while Boogie Woogie Turnaround is supremely respectful of the music that caught Binder’s ears when his father brought home a 1978 disc by the “Mojo Blues Band,” Binder and friends – particularly Cole – put enough of a spin on things to avoid being simply another well-meaning but ultimately unremarkable copy.
First, there’s Binder’s sparkling skills on the piano – he’s truly a master of the style, whether it’s on barroom stomps or gentle, gospel-inflected ruminations. His compositions are sturdy and endlessly inventive, and he gets superb support from bassist Alexander Lackner and drummer Michael Strasser. Multi-instrumentalist Dozzler adds effective acoustic harp on a couple and joins Binder for a couple of piano duets, but it’s Cole’s contributions that truly set this project apart.
Pedal steel players don’t typically get much press, but BJ Cole’s resume is impressive indeed; he’s played with everyone from T.Rex to Elton John to Bjork and The Verve. Pedal steel isn’t usually part of the boogie woogie instrumental palette (pretty much limited to piano with bass and drums as appropriate), but here he manages to take the tunes he’s on through the deepest swamps or the wide open prairies, simply by virtue of his tone and style, adding subtle and unobtrusive yet uncannily atmospheric touches.
The disc is all-instrumental with the exception of some very subtle background vocals (more texture than anything) on the closing track, “Floyd’s Tune.” Yet the pacing is perfect and things never bog down. Above all, though, what comes through here is a palpable sense of fun. It’s obviously a project straight from the heart, and there’s a tangible feeling of pure joy in every performance. This one’s well worth tracking down …!