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George Gruntz: Piano Works II: Ringing the Luninator

George Gruntz, known for his Concert Jazz Band, waited until he was 72 to record his first solo piano album. Those familiar with the extravagant, demonstrative personality of his big band will not be surprised by the bombast and broad wit here. What might surprise is Gruntz’s full, lush pianistic fluency.

Gruntz’s own compositions, distinctly European in their through-composed forms and tone, are featured but do not dominate. Most of the album is interesting choices from little-known works by jazz composers (Ray Anderson, Frank Rosolino, Andreas Vollenweider) and classics from the popular songbook. There is one Monk, “Well You Needn’t,” in a funny stride/Baroque send-up. Gruntz’s heavy-handed, ornate style transforms itself into a lighter touch for pieces like “My Foolish Heart” and “I Loves You Porgy.” His portrayals, while exhaustively elaborate, are deeply felt.

Gruntz’s inclination toward busy overstatement will not appeal to everyone, but one quality of this recording will-its sound. This second in the ACT label’s new series of solo piano works was recorded at Reformierte Kirche Witikon in Zurich by Lasse Nipkow, and it is a revelatory sonic rendering of an individual artist on a particular Steinway Model D in a quite miraculous acoustic space.

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