Konrad Paszkudzki grew up in Australia raised by Polish immigrant parents who encouraged his gift for piano. After beginning a performing career there he moved to the United States in 2009 to attend school. He quickly found himself in the club circuit. He worked with the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra and was part of Jeff Hamilton’s trio in Los Angeles. More recently he spent four years touring with John Pizzarelli’s Quartet. In 2017 he began serving as Artistic Director of Jazz at the Ballroom, a West Coast Non-profit.
Back in 2012, he held a year-long residency as house pianist at 54 Below. The New York City Theater District club provided him with the opportunity to dig deep into the Great American Songbook, an endless vein of material that has recently helped fuel a rapid-fire release of composer-themed albums from his trio on the Japanese label Venus.
In addition to this album of Gershwin compositions, the trio has released albums of material from Cole Porter, Richard Rogers, and Jimmy Van Heusen, as well as several before that highlighting multiple composers. They plan many more including albums of material by Harry Warren and Jule Styne that may already be available as you read this.
It takes a youthful vigor to produce at that rate and a certain approach to making music. Both are evident on Fascinating Rhythm- George Gershwin Songbook. Backing Paszkudzki on this album are Dylan Shamat on bass and Dag Markhus on drums. The group plays with a classic swing that is at times relaxed but not smooth and when called for, rousing without becoming theatrical, sophisticated but not stuffy. The focus is on compelling melody and elegantly timed rather than showy delivery. Space is given to gracefully weaving solos true to the original material. “Embraceable You” practically sings. Other titles include “A Foggy Day”, “S’Wonderful”, “So am I” and “Walking the Dog”.
Much of the album is bright and all of it swings, it has the feel of Gershwin. I briefly skipped around on some of the other themed albums and was impressed by how well the trio’s interpretations reflected my image of the composers’ spirit if not how they are most frequently performed. If you have a favorite among the other composers I mentioned it is worth your time to seek out these renditions. The Konrad Paszkudzki Trio is busily proving that the Great American Songbook still has plenty to tell us.
Find the albums at www.konradjazz.com