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Erik Deutsch: Falling Flowers (LoHi)

Review of sixth album by the eclectic keyboardist

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Cover of Erik Deutsch album Falling Flowers
Cover of Erik Deutsch album Falling Flowers

The keyboard skills of Erik Deutsch have landed him in wide-ranging settings, including but not limited to adventurous jazz (Steven Bernstein, Nels Cline) and jam bands (Leftover Salmon). On his own albums, of which Falling Flowers is number six, he isn’t afraid to switch stylistic gears between songs. The mood from start to finish exudes good times, even when things get more subdued. The combination of Brian Drye’s trombone and Mike McGinnis’ clarinet (and saxophone) adds a unique tonal quality to the melodies. This occurs most significantly on “Little Bell,” a 10-minute dub-style track that goes heavy on the ambience created by bassist Jesse Murphy and drummer Tony Mason.

Before that, things get off to a rollicking start with the second-line groove of “Jump Change,” where Deutsch’s electric piano breaks from the traditional New Orleans sound, following some growling horn work from Drye. Deutsch returns to this vibe later in “Big Bongos,” showing off his boogie piano skills which surely slay the crowds at the arena shows. But much of the album seems to rely a bit too much on atmosphere, at the expense of the writing. The title track, co-written and sung by Deutsch’s wife, Victoria Reed, gets a little repetitive, though its blend of a gospel melody and ’70s Southern California vibe is pretty catchy.

On the other hand, “Mel’s Drive In” (a cover of saxophonist Mel Martin) and “Ghostfeather” lean heavily on the sound of Deutsch’s wah-wah organ in the former and the effects pedals he and guitarist Avi Bortnick use in the latter. Deutsch’s musical diversity works in his favor. He just needs to dig deeper, beyond the crowd-pleasing moves.

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Originally Published