Twin Daughters of Different Mothers

All That Jazz: Feb, 2012

On The Town | Philip Ellison | February 2012

Yours truly, itinerant jazz critic for these pages, was faced with something of an existential dilemma with the dawn of the new year.

A thoughtful review of events satisfies a great need, I mused, summing up, and evaluating recent events in our fair city. Unless we pause a while, every now and then, and reflect on what has just gone by, it’s just "Groundhog Day". So however alternative technologies may tempt us, it’s newspapers and magazines that help us see, and maybe catch hold of, the story arc of life as it unfolds.

Given the "hurry up" attention span of many of even the most ardent music fans, and readers of this paper, our hope is to innovate, and to continue to explore, with you, how our jazz coverage, including concert reviews, may be made more relevant, providing both the long-time fan and the neophyte with useful context. Maybe this means soft-pedaling the "first draft of history" nature of journalism, muting the snapshot nature of an ex post facto accounts of cultural events, as we find new ways to write about music in ways that remain accessible, even when the show is long over.

This month, I am happy to report, that a recent jazz date, late in November at Vienna’s beloved Jazzland (1., Franz-Josefs-Kai 29) provided me an evening that lingers like a lovely refrain. The appearance of Elly Wright and Carole Alston, two great ladies of song, backed by a swinging keyboard player and his trio, proved the beating heart of Austrian jazz is just around the corner, there for the taking.

Elly Wright, a Vienna icon for now 30 years, and Carole Alston, an American by birth has become an echte Wienerin by choice, since 2000 she has been performing Jazz and starring in musicals in and around Vienna. As expected, the women took a lovely stroll through the American songbook, both solo and together. With a combined repertoire ranging from Big Band "girl singer" favorites to the 3 o’clock-in-the-morning-blues, the tunes chosen reflected diverse swing, be-bop, even Tin Pan Alley provenance, with of course the blues popping its head up now and again, all steeped in powerful emotion.

Carole Alston was in particularly strong voice this night, with the allure of a Mediterranean siren, she sang a sonorous "East of the Sun" that one just had to witness to believe. With a palpable warmth, a clarity, even purity I had not expected, Carole seemed capable of almost anything, a voice of riches a-ripening as it matures!

When the lights went up, and the chairs turned over, the energy level Elly, Carole and crew put forth never ebbed, making it hard to hear the final notes. Little but the cold night air awaited. Fortunately, much of the music featured in this musical meeting of minds appears on "Nostalgically Yours, Two of a Kind" a CD issued by Groove Records and available via Elly’s website at

With Carole and Elly headlining the recorded set, backed by the Erwin Schmidt Trio, (Erwin Schmidt piano, Joschi Schneeberger bass, Andy Weiss drums, with special guest, Christian Havel, guitar) the tunes are pretty evenly split between solo turns and duets featuring both Carole and Elly.

Especially noteworthy is a wonderful Ellington medley ("Beginning to See the Light/Satin Doll/Don’t Get Around Much Anymore") that plays to the strengths of both, trading leads with the band.

So, in case you missed it – the show that is – the music, and hours of entertainment, can be found with the recording, pictured here... if you get my drift!

Jazz is a contemplative art form, spooling breathlessly, in its best expression, into the unknown. You may not know you are a fan, but take the time, put a disc in the machine, and lean back a while. I hope you enjoy the ride, until next month!

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