JJ 02/92: Barbara Dennerlein – Bebab / Live On Tour

Thirty years ago, the German organist impressed Derek Ansell with her hard-swinging quintet focused on full-blooded bop. First published in Jazz Journal February 1992


Barbara Dennerlein is an energetic improviser on the Hammond organ and she communicates an infectious swing and a spontaneous enjoyment in much the same manner that Jimmy Smith did when he came on the scene in the mid fifties. To take the similarity further their points of reference would appear to be the same: full-blooded bop with a predilection for the music of Charlie Parker. And the name of Ms Dennerlein’s record company, Bebab, is a shortening of bebop and Barbara.

Usually, I find 10 or 15 minutes of electric organ quite enough but the creative level achieved on the first of these CDs was hard to resist. Barbara’s hard-swinging quintet deliver some charging improvisational forays on Rush Hour and Parker’s Au Privave and an easy flowing set of blues choruses on Stormy Weather Blues. The saxophones are straight ahead, trombonist Nay is robust and crackling in solo and Breuer is almost the equal of the leader in his sparkling, hard-driving drum work. Barbara Dennerlein’s walking bass solos and her accompanying bass line played with the foot pedals keeps the pulse throbbing. This lady needs no bass player.

The Live On Tour set takes her out of her usual environment and is I feel, rather less successful. Perdido reminds me very much of Roy Eldridge’s classic Dale’s Wail session with Oscar Peterson on organ back in 1955. Oscar Klein plays very much in the Eldridge hot trumpet style and Antolini is a swing-era-type drummer in the Buddy Rich tradition. Klein’s guitar work is bright and bubbly but Ms Dennerlein seems slightly uneasy in this company with her variegated bop phrases. Her best work here is the organ with drums workout on Au Privave and her own Tribute To Charlie (Parker, not the drummer on the date). Caravan is a framework for a very long Antolini drum solo and it is rather over indulgent if technically impressive. Klein’s clarinet work is polished and melodic, particularly as he has only recently taken up the instrument.

If you like contemporary bop, the first CD is strongly recommended and if you don’t think a mixture of bop and swing styles is too incongruous you may find Live On Tour worthy of consideration.

[Bebab] Rush Hour; Tribute To Charlie; Stormy Weather Blues; Bo Peep; Just Play; Toscanian Sunset; Au Privave; This Old Fairy Tale; A Night In Tunisia (59.54)
Joe Nay (tb); Jurgen Seefelder (ts); Hermann Breuer (d); Allan Praskin (as); Barbara Dennerlein (org). Munchen, July 27, 1985.
(Bebab 25 09 64)
[Live On Tour] Perdido; Jessica; Tribute To Charlie; On The Sunny Side Of The Street; Blues For Fatty; Au Privave; Caravan; Undecided; Don’t Get Around Much Anymore; I Got Rhythm (58.00)
Oscar Klein (t/elg/cl); Barbara Dennerlein org); Charly Antolini (d). Vienna, January 18, 1989.
(Bebab 25 09 65)