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From the Westdeutsche Zeitung, Krefeld, Germany:
Third Rail: Fans with glowing eyes in Jazzkeller
By Klaus M. Schmidt
A Grammy winner on the keyboard, a whirlwind on drums and a bass player with melodic flair.
Krefeld: The rear part of the stage in the Jazzkeller is in front of the store, and there usually sits the drummer – with his back to the door. Several fans were standing there at the guest appearance of the band Third Rail with glowing eyes as they would be interested in the rest of the trio no further. Because at the drums sat Tom Brechtlein, a legendary fusion drummer since his collaboration with Chick Corea.
Third Rail is the trio of keyboardist George Whitty, with five Grammys won the most successful musician in the band. The electric bass is served by Janek Gwizdala, at 35 years the youngest, his biography the least full. That will not last.
Fusion is the band’s music, funk and Latin are hunted with the power of rock to be brought the stage. Brechtlein swirls continuously on cymbals and drums, the drummer plays rapid and complex nested accompanying figures with a looseness of the sleeves in such a way that you can understand the shining eyes of his fans.
Whitty plays on three keyboards, a synthesizer with electronic sound, with an additional electric piano and organ sounds and a digital piano. Organ and electric piano sound serve the accompaniment, with the right hand Whitty can play the solo parts on the piano or synthesizer sound.
The combination of sounds means variety, Whitty’s topics are usually rhythmically striking. His phrasing is impeccable, he is transported on the pressure generated by Brechtlein without any loss to friction on his melodies.
But the secret star of this Groove Combine is bassist Gwizdala. With his five-string electric bass he turns out to be a veritable chameleon. In the deep layers he pumps his companion meandering lines, but as a soloist, he prefers the high altitudes. As the bass player he is as fluid as a guitarist, with a melodic feeling, which is amazing for a bassist. Much applause in the well-attended jazz cellar.
From the Mindener Tagesblatt, Minden, Germany:
Trio Third Rail presents itself in the Jazzclub Minden with skill and creativity
Musically close together
Minden: When musicians are masters of their craft excellent, and in addition show that the chemistry between them and they have a lot of fun together properly, then a concert is a good concert.
The band “Third Rail” with the keyboard player and five-time Grammy-winner George Whitty, bassist Janek Gwizdala and drummer Tom Brechtlein served to visitors on Saturday at the Jazz Club Minden the concert of a lifetime, in which everything was just right.
What stood out immediately: For the compact design of the instruments the stage was not used by far – a first indication of the close communication of the musicians which was experienced during the concert.
George Whitty, Janek Gwizdala and Tom Brechtlein meet at eye level. Interaction determines the action and the beauty is that the three musicians also have a powerful lot of fun. Facial expressions and gestures betrayed that in these three musicians with each note flowing through their bodies. A relaxed passion reflected on their faces. Perfection in handling dynamics. The joy of interaction of one’s own game with the other. Enthusiasm for the solo improvisations of the players as well as for their own. Whitty, Gwizdala and Brechtlein are especially musically very close together. Three brilliant musicians play to the highest technical level with a shared musical vocabulary that covers all positive moods. From the opener “Renaissance Man”, a composition Whitty wrote for sax legend Michael Brecker, to the wonderfully grooving and spiced with incredible panache “You Rang? “which is the doorbell from the Addams Family TV series”, the music then turns unceremoniously into “Chicago Opener” renamed “Minden Opener “by Gwizdala or his emotive composition for his wife, “Bethany”: creativity and skill, wit and humor knew no bounds and met with the public to bright enthusiasm.
From the Rheinische Post, Krefeld, Germany:
Secret Superstar in the Keller
Rarely was fusion jazz so perfect : Just before the conclusion of Jazzkeller’s 55th anniversary year, Wofl Jeanette and Bernard Bosil have ignited a top hit. They lured the trio ” Third Rail ” with George Whitty on keyboards, Janek Gwizdala on bass and Tom Brechtlein on drums for a live performance, and the supergroup exceeded even the most ambitious expectations.
Hardly is there a musician who scored five Grammy Awards and Emmy nominations who has remained as unknown as George Whitty. But he has mostly been the keyboard magician or producer in the background of stars such as Carlos Santana , Celine Dion, Richard Bona and the Brecker Brothers. To an extent he recalls the British Nicky Hopkins, whose gifted hands also played with the most prominent top acts on organ and piano, including the Beatles and Rolling Stones, but who always stayed out of the limelight .
Also Whitty , who hails from the culturally more secluded U.S. state of Oregon and to this day maintains a rural slow speech, cavorted so far away from the spotlight, which is why there are also so few photos of him. Here, the sporty-looking family man is up to every trick . Many legends from the 1960s , 70s and 80s relevant to the keys are entered into the game of this man: Brian Auger, Al Kooper and Keith Emerson, the two great Stevie (Winwood and Wonder) , Billy Preston, Booker T. and Art Neville to Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett and not least Les McCann . They were all somehow audible while Whitty conjured with his combination of a Nord Lead, two Yamaha synthesizers and a computer. Soul, Funk, New Orleans, Latin, jazz and blues fused with a breathtaking dexterity and seemingly boundless ingenuity to the multifaceted writing, with the Whitty from Amsterdam who traveled to the audience stunned in the basement and enthusiastic.
Here he was with the young bassist Janek Gwizdala to the side , who in turn brought a lot of previous experience with him and whose work any guitarist would be proud to honor, but the classic role of his instrument in the ensemble, however, was never neglected . He also held always a vocal dialogue with his five-string. Drummer Tom Brechtlein completes the trio, who perfected his tremendously complex and imaginative play with top stars such as Chick Corea, Al DiMeola, and Wayne Shorter.
In the compositions that were predominantly made by Whitty , the three reached with highest precision a rhythmic and harmonic density of exquisite sophistication and developed a furious intensity. Rarely was fusion jazz so completely restructured , and even more rarely has it had so much swing. The constant intensive drive showed here no trace of difficulty, but brilliant ease. Humor they had incidentally also: “Checking your e- mails? ” asked Gwizdala , as the keyboardist reviewed a setting on the laptop, and thereby plucked a grinning Johnny Cash bass figure . And by the way , they proved yet that one can achieve in every corner of the Jazzkeller a brilliant sound quality. Simply terrific!
Jazz/Rock is Alive and Well–Third Rail in Zülpich Tonight, Cologne on December 7th, Prague, December 8th
Music fans in Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, etc., who are willing to do a bit of traveling, have the opportunity to hear the Jazz/Rock supergroup Third Rail tonight at the Live Proberaum in Zülpich, Germany, at the Altes Pfandhaus in Cologne, Germany tomorrow, December 7th, and at the Agharta Jazzclub in Prague, Czech Republic on December 8th.Five-time Grammy winner and multi-keyboardist George Whitty (Herbie Hancock, Brecker Brothers, Carlos Santana, David Sanborn) is joined by drummer Tom Brechtlein (Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter, Jean-Luc Ponty, Al DiMeola) and bassist Janek Gwizdala (Pat Metheny, Mike Stern, Wayne Krantz, Randy Brecker) to do some serious Jazz/Rock fusing and shredding.
These three guys can play, as you can see and hear from this video, filmed live at the Jazzclub in Minden, Germany. All three are veterans who have earned high marks in many musical fields, but what makes this grouping special is their willingness to not only touch, but embrace the proverbial third rail of jazz…
The bringing together of jazz and rock ‘n’ roll (and many other musics, ultimately) has been through some changes since Miles Davis first laid down Filles de Kilimanjaro (1968) and In A Silent Way (1969). When Miles recorded the revolutionary Bitches Brew (1970), he knew from the instant reaction of the music world that he had touched a nerve. He also knew from the harsh criticism he immediately elicited from many music critics of the day, that the old traditionalists thought he had ventured too far beyond the pale—or in other words, he had touched the “third rail.”
On an electric railway, of course, the third rail is one that runs parallel to the two that the railroad cars’ wheels travel on. It supplies the very high-voltage electrical power that moves the train and its passengers and cargo at a very high speed. Just as was the case with the music of Miles Davis and the music that his personnel went on to create in the form of Mahavishnu Orchestra (John McLaughlin), Return to Forever (Chick Corea, Lenny White), Lifetime (Tony Williams, Larry Young) and Weather Report (Joe Zawinul, Wayne Shorter), the electrical power was real and physical, as well as spiritual and musical. This was music played in the tradition of jazz, with the power of rock ‘n’ roll.
In the case of a human being who comes into direct contact with the third rail on a railroad line, that human dies a sudden and violent death by electrocution. For those of you interested in the colorful history of the jazz idiom—beginning with that fiery cauldron Miles stirred up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the music brought such loud controversy, such harsh and bitter rhetoric from some jazz critics, that it felt much like one of those human electrocutions. At least, that’s what the bilious condemnation intended for it to be.
But the joke is on the critics. It always is, isn’t it? Jazz/Rock is still here. And the critics … if they’re not spinning in their graves, are awfully soft-spoken these days. The direction jazz took in 1968 is still a bit of a third rail for some people. But if James P. Johnson and Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong were around today, they would be innovating still. They would be trying everything they could to keep the music alive and vital and relevant. They would be all over the third rail.
They would be electric.
Jazz is the one musical form that embraces all other forms. Jazz can (and does) incorporate everything from klezmer and European classical to hip hop and blues and bluegrass. The imaginary third rail, the one that says you can’t go exploring too far and can’t try something,anything, because it is too radical a departure from what is currently considered acceptable, is a falsehood. It certainly has nothing to do with jazz, which can include anything. It’s just like Duke Ellington said:
“Put it this way: Jazz is a good barometer of freedom… In its beginnings, the United States of America spawned certain ideals of freedom and independence through which, eventually, jazz was evolved, and the music is so free that many people say it is the only unhampered, unhindered expression of complete freedom yet produced in this country.”
George Whitty’s band Third Rail is putting jazz and rock ‘n’ roll together at full roar and can take you for a good, long ride. George and Tom and Janek are keep the electricity flowing and the trains running on time.
Third Rail: George Whitty, Janek Gwizdala, Tom Brechtlein
The extraordinary jazz concerts in Cologne “Old Pawn” there was this week again a real jazz highlight. The Third Rail project of Los Angeles-based keyboardist George Whitty is currently one of the most exciting and best trio formations of the international fusion scene. Whitty and his two companions Janek Gwizdala and Tom Brechtlein infused the audience of the old pawn shop from the beginning with a dense and yet rousing sound, a vibrant and formidable grooving sound on. True to the taste of the public. The atmosphere in the concert hall in the south of Cologne could not have been better. Gerhard Richter was with his camera in close and gives us another new stunning series of photos to view.
Images of original reviews:
(CLICK HERE to see the Rheinische Post review below full-resolution)