Christopher Loudon reviews Michael Kaeshammer's self-titled 7th release
Though this is the Canadian pianist and vocalist’s seventh album, it is appropriate that it is the first given an eponymous title—for this is undistilled, back-to-basics Michael Kaeshammer, doing what he does and loves best: digging into the roots of jazz and R&B, playing infectious boogie-woogie and stride piano, and generally having a recklessly good time.
Though the German-born Kaeshammer divides his time between Toronto, Vancouver and New York, you’d be forgiven for mistaking him for a native New Orleanian whose playing is equal parts Albert Ammons and Professor Longhair and whose voice blends the cool sophistication of Harry Connick Jr. with a jigger or two of Dr. John grit. Kaeshammer blasts out of the gate with “Rendezvous,” a rollicking come-to-the-party celebration of new love, and maintains the intense heat through the sizzling “Zanzibar” and passionate “Tightrope.” His “The You-and-Me” has a delectable pop fizz licked by blazing horns, and “Heartbeat” recalls the tight yet wild abandon of Atlantic-era Ray Charles. “Love Me or Leave Me,” one of only two covers, is taken midtempo and superbly reimagined as a plea driven by barely contained sexual hunger.
Softer desires are propelled by the gentle breezes of “Shalimar,” a fine showcase for guest vocal partner Jill Barber. But if much of Kaeshammer is shaped of Saturday night revelry, his instrumental treatment of the Impressions’ “People Get Ready” is strictly Sunday morning: pure as mountain air and majestic as breaking dawn.