Barbara Dennerlein
Wednesday, 5 August 2009 at 8:00pm • Norman Rothstein Theatre

Performers Barbara Dennerlein, organ; Phil Dwyer, saxophone; Jesse Cahill, drums

Reviewer John Jane

The Hammond B3 is to jazz and blues organists what the Fender Stratocaster is to rock guitarists. No longer in current production, the B3 was the instrument of choice for such legendary musicians as Jimmy Smith, Atsuko Hashimoto and Johnny "Hammond" Smith.

In keeping with this year’s festival theme of German music and German artists, the Jazz at the Rothstein Series kicked off its concert programme with über jazz organist, Barbara Dennerlein performing a selection of her own compositions backed by Phil Dwyer on saxophone and Jesse Cahill on drums.

The tall, slim Münchener, now in her mid-forties (but looks ten years younger) quickly got rolling with a bouncy rendition of “The Unforgettable” - a tune she wrote in memory of Johnny Hammond. Next was a vigorous and more lyrical arrangement, which with its complex rhythms was hardly evocative of its simple title, “A Summer’s Day.” In these opening explorations Ms Dennerlein demonstrated her remarkable virtuosity of playing bass lines on the wooden pedalboard.

With the oddly titled “I-797” (borrowed from the application form for a US work visa), Dennerlein disclosed that it’s not only Canadians that incur difficulties with US Homeland Security. Cahill’s understated percussion served to compliment the organist’s (intentionally) uneven harmonies.

A favourite with the accepting and seemingly knowledgeable crowd was the weltschmerzlich tinged “Going Home” that gave the audience the opportunity to revel in Dwyer’s bluesy saxophone.

The trio concluded their non-stop, two-hour concert with the lively “Organ Boogie.” Notwithstanding Barbara Dennerlein’s undeniably exceptional musicianship, I personally found the overdriven sound of the Hammond B3 organ might have been even more enjoyable had the concert been just slightly shorter.

© 2009 John Jane