CD review

Frank Woeste – “Pocket Rhapsody II”

Frank Woeste – Pocket Rhapsody II (release 30 October)
(ACT 9917-2. CD revew by Adam Sieff)

The pianist and composer Frank Woeste moved from Hanover to Paris in 1999 to study at the Conservatoire National Supérieur and has been very much part of the City of Light’s music community ever since. He’s recorded a number of albums as leader, released the Man Ray inspired Dada People with Dave Douglas and worked with trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf and Korean vocalist Youn Sun Nah.

This album comes four years after the first Pocket Rhapsody album, his debut for ACT, when Woeste recorded with American guitarist Ben Monder and drummer Justin Brown. This time around it’s a strictly European affair featuring Dutch trumpeter Eric Vloeimans, Belgian drummer Stéphane Galland, and French trombonist Robinson Khoury and bassist Julien Herné. Woeste also uses the children’s choir Maîtrise des Hauts-de-Seine, featuring his son Oscar.

Woeste composed, arranged and produced the album which was recorded and mixed by Erwan Boulay at Studio Libretto in Paris. He notes that ‘a rhapsody is a free form which goes through a range of emotions’ and the eleven tracks cover a great deal of musical and emotional ground. Although his classical roots tend to show through, there are elements of pop and even a rocky moment or two, but it’s all kept very much under control. He also uses the album to rework repertoire previously released elsewhere. There are two songs from the first Pocket Rhapsody album, Mirage and Pocket Rhapsody, which have been completely transformed. There are two tracks previously recorded as duets, Wintersong with saxophonist Seamus Blake and Clair Obscur with guitarist Lage Lund, which are now given a full band arrangement. And Noire et Blanche was first recorded with Dave Douglas for the Dada People album.

Woeste is a without doubt a fine pianist and composer with a style very much his own. As well as acoustic piano he makes particularly good use of a Fender Rhodes which generally fits the moods of the songs well. The band’s ensemble playing is well honed and arranged, Vloeimans’ trumpet solos and Khoury’s trombone are exceptional and the rhythm section is solid. But the major issue here is the use of the children’s choir, as it features on over a third of the album’s tracks. Woeste explains the reason for using it was that ‘the children’s voices could bring humanity and classical poise, they would be a perfect counterweight to rocky and electric sounds of the band.’ That said, it could be a potential dealbreaker for some.

LINK: Frank Woeste’s website

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