“Smack Dab In The Middle” drops the listener right in the middle of the action. Blinded by the spotlights of a train taking off, you get carried away by the unstoppable playing mood of the well-rehearsed sextet, driven by the relentless swing of the rhythm group which inspires the guitarist to a first stunning solo.
The christening gift of the brand new jazz branch of the West Swiss label PBR Records SA is the third album of Werner Fischer’s Travelogue and the first with the superb singer Coco Rouzier (USA) on board.
Impressive how disciplined the musicians roll out their original compositions as well as the classics: Like a flock of fully trained racehorses, they gallop on, sheering out individually from time to time until their boisterous fervor is held back right on the beat by the strong hand of the bandleader, transferring their concentrated power to the stunned listener.
Following the kick-ass start, Randy Newman’s gloomy ballad “Baltimore” introduces a quieter stretch. Rouzier’s wonderful melancholic timbre and the relaxed attitude of the train attendants transform the grim view of the lyrics into an experience you can’t get enough of.
Our gut-feeling after the first two songs is expressed in a compliment to the band by stormproof entertainer Coco on “Wait On Love”: “The groove is just – wow – I mean it’s tight.” We agree.
A skillful instrumental revealing Fischer’s flirtation with Chinese culture is followed by the three-part “Transcendental Suite”: A deeply felt version of the 70ies classic “Everything Must Change”, followed by a brief free interlude which is dissolved by the soothing balm of “Step By Step” – a pleasant breathing exercise guided by Rouzier’s relaxed voice and accompanied by Fischer-Tian’s filigree Gibson. The suite ends with a respectful salute to the “thin white Duke” with the line “Say goodbye to ground control.”
Getting off the Transamerican Express, we hop into the waiting Space Shuttle as the pilot takes us for a ride to exoplanet Kepler 452-b, stirring our hopes for a better world. We are welcomed by the bitter sweet “Rescue Me”, a smooth bossa nova, spiced up by Jürg Wickihalder ravishingly blowing his heartache into the night.
Yet another retro flash hits us in space: After an intro resembling a slow-motion version of “Walking On The Moon“, the “Wrong Song” turns out to be a hypnotic reggae of the lasciviously intoxicated kind.
Planet earth comes within sight and we land in “A Summer’s Tale” – the continuing story of a wonderfully timeless summer, an acapella version of “Summertime” merging seamlessly into the wistful late summer-tune “Summer’s End”. Expect to hear a silver moon rise above the deserted beach club behind Roberto Domeniconi’s enchanted piano.
After the heartfelt confession of the singer, that “Jazz Is Nothin’ But Soul”, the grandiose album closes with a roguish Hammond organ on “Bringing it all back home”. The light-hearted conclusion of a wonderfully enriching journey leaving us with lasting impressions and the wish to grab your bags and start again.