Travis_shook-kurt_weill_span3
March 2006

Travis Shook
Plays Kurt Weill
Dead Horse

Travis Shook is an accomplished pianist whose first 15 minutes of fame (hopefully there will be others) came early. In 1993, when he was 24, he released an eponymous CD on Columbia, now out of print. It took until 2005 to release two others, both on Dead Horse: Awake and Plays Kurt Weill.

The latter is an odd, insular, seductive little album. It is all of a piece, one unified Kurt Weill cabaret atmosphere of fatalism and piquant melancholy, sustained despite track-to-track personnel changes. Shook and his rhythm section of Jennifer Vincent on bass and Jaz Sawyer on drums are constants. Others come and go, but all get deep into Shook's postmodern Weill visitation. Vocalist Veronica Nunn sensitively understates the bleak, beautiful lyrics of "Lost in the Stars" and "Lonely House." Vibraphonist Bryan Carrott melds with Shook's piano for a crystalline "September Song." Ron Westray on trombone and Kebbi Williams on tenor saxophone create one of the hippest, driest, most elliptical versions of "Mack the Knife" on record.

The best tune is "My Ship," by the trio. Shook's silvery single notes run free for eight minutes, yet, in the sincerest of tributes, there are very few measures without a fragment of melody or broken chord suggesting Weill's song.

Originally published in March 2006
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