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Duke Heitger & Bernd Lhotzky: Doin’ The Voom Voom

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When an opportunity arose last summer for Arbors’ owner Mat Domby to produce Ohio-born trumpeter Duke Heitger, and Bavarian native, pianist Bernd Lhotzky on the latter’s turf, Domber flew to Bavaria to engineer the session. It proved to be so relaxed and laid-back, most of the 17 tracks were accomplished on first takes: evidence of rare musicianship, instant chemistry and deep sensitivity toward the material.

You can hear all those qualities on each track. From the Great American Songbook, “How Long Has This Been Going On?” and “The Folks Who Live On The Hill” offer poignant examples of capturing the intent of their writers: the heartbreak of the Gershwin Brothers’ rhetorical question comes through Heitger’s horn on “How Long,” as does the Hammerstein-Kern portrayal of gentleness on “The Folks.”

The trumpet/piano survey of classics unearthed plenty of surprises from Duke Ellington, James P. Johnson, and even Sir Edward Elgar! A collaboration between Bubber Miley and the Duke gave birth to the title track with its campy syncopation and characteristic Bubber-like plunger licks. “You’ve Got To Be Modernistic, by James P. — highlighted by repeated notes –becomes a great solo vehicle for Lhotzky. Check his left hand action on “Liza” and “Jeepers Creepers.” His lowest bass notes are as firm and unerring as Fats Waller’s, and fluid enough to create independent, obligato-like melodies. Thanks to the right lips and hands, trumpet and piano provide a master class in dialogue, both intimate and swinging, somewhat suggestive of the 2002 Arbors release, Watch What Happens, matching a nucleus of Ruby Braff with Dick Hyman, plus guitar and drums.

Curious about the Elgar? Well, early in his career the great symphonist wrote “Salut d’Amour, a simple little ditty more suitable for salon than saloon. It became so popular (even more so than his “Pomp and Circumstance” marches) that he grew to resent it. He would have gone ballistic had he ever heard Duke Heitger’s non-legit phrasing.

Oh Ed, chill out…Do the Voom- Voom.

Originally Published