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Mark Flugge: Press

CD title: Familiarity

Artist: Mark Flugge (piano), with Gene Bertoncini (guitar), Michael Moore (bass)

Year released: 2003

Record Label: Around Every Corner

One of the wonderful things about jazz is that the genre allows musicians a vast amount of opportunities to explore a musical idea to it’s fruition within certain grammatical constraints. A composer expects musicians to be able to explore temporal flexibility, rhythmic and harmonic relationships, and melodic structures, as well as abstract qualities such as fluidity and texture. What stands out on this CD is that these three excellent musicians simply play the music without the music playing them. In other words, each is content to share and never obliterate, explore the musical ideas within the boundaries given, and graciously provide and receive support without limping along. For instance, this trio consists of piano (Mark Flugge), guitar (Gene Bertoncini), and bass (Michael Moore). Without the benefit of a drummer, all must take turns being timekeeper. Often times this can be a thankless job without the luxury of swinging drumsticks, but never is there a sigh apparent, as this trio of highly acclaimed musicians perform the tasks at hand. Mark Flugge’s five original compositions are also impressive, particularily “Amour Se Lamente”. Never overstated, the compositions caress rather than overwhelm, and whisper rather than shout. Perhaps what is needed more in this crazy world are times of cooperation, and an hour’s worth of music played softly in the night.

Tracks: Brazilian Waltz, Ahmad, Amour Se Lamente, Yellow Days, Sleigh Ride in July, Music Music Everywhere, Erika Kristen, Beatrice the Cat, Familiarity, A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square

Reviewed by Michael Casano
Michael Casano - (Jul 4, 2008)
Major Minor: The gold standard of Silver tributes

By John Petric
Published: Wednesday, November 26, 2008 2:24 PM EST
Want to escape reality’s current bite-in-the-ass? Here’s a way that recently brought me to ecstasy’s doorstep and invited me in to see a world of abstract visions of color and perception-altering images as well as music so divine I thought I was somewhere else.

And it was completely legal and involved no chemical hangover!

To wit, fools: One of the Midwest’s best jazz piano trios—Mark Flugge’s—did a deeply satisfying tribute to one of jazz’s piano maestros, Horace Silver, at the Columbus Museum of Art Sunday afternoon.

Flugge (rhymes with loogy—hard “g,” baby) augmented his trio with saxophonist Bryan Olsheski and Lee Savory on trumpet. With Dave DeWitt on acoustic bass and Dave Weinstock on drums, we’re talking five pros who can re-create a genius’s genius while adding their own.

The fast bop of Horace’s “Room 608” transmogrified into the bluesy bossa-soul-boogie of “The Jody Grind,” which in turn was followed by an emotionally touched ballad of “Summer in Central Park.”

Silver’s melodies of grace and elegance sported a subtle funk that marked him as Dave Brubeck’s earthier counterpart in the jazz dance of the early ’60s. Flugge knows the two intimately and can approach one with the other in the back of his piano mind and no one’s the wiser. On Sunday, the flow of the ivories couldn’t have brought a darker theater to a brighter inner glow.

But let’s talk about two of my most favorite sidemen of any “local” band, be it rock, jazz or whatever—DeWitt and Weinstock. What a freakin’ pleasure it was to experience these two at work: DeWitt plunking his doghouse while Weinstock ticked away, each with a touch the equivalent of a gold standard for jazz.

DeWitt looked like Sigmund Freud grooving in psychotherapy heaven, white goatee and bald pate bobbing in time to some of the greatest walking bass I’ve ever heard.

And then you got the kid Weinstock completely blowing my mind with a drumming that ought to be required viewing for every metal-head timekeeper in the world: In terms of velocity, less is sometimes more. So powerful is Weinstock’s skins work that I’m in utter awe of how easy he makes it look.

As the trio-plus-two rollicked through a second half of more hard and fast bop, funky, sexy blues and chart-worthy compositions with highly intelligent pop themes, DeWitt and Weinstock took charge of their responsibilities with an artistic inspiration I found inspiring.

As for the other elements of my Sunday experience, remember, this did take place in a museum.

As if sitting in a darkened, intimate little theater space with a stage lit only in red and listening to a superbly fine jazz group wasn’t enough, during the break I wandered through the wings and soaked up the art of the late Murray Jones. Murray’s work is as stimulating as a hit of acid in your mind’s Crayola box: arresting abstract etchings that give way to lacquered mixes of textures and colors simultaneously swirling and still. Awesome!

Sounds and visions, elevation and stimulation—a Sunday afternoon experience worthy of life. Oh, and by the way, Flugge does something like this every month at the museum.

From John Petri'c's review in The Other Paper, January 29, 2009:

"Once a month, Sunday means 'jazz vacation' at our Museum of Art, where pianist Mark Flugge and his associates do some sort of phenomenally well-executed tribute to the legends of the genre. This past Sunday's show was centered on the late Ray Brown, a bassist of apparently huge renown. Now I know.

"Flugge's man on the upright, Chris Berg, literally had my slack jaw dropping even farther with amazing handfuls of left-hand-fretting/right-hand-plucking magic. And the music was masterpiece after masterpiece, particularly Brown's own tribute to Sonny Rollins.

"Reality escape quotient: Screw the Super Bowl. I'd rather experience Sunday jazz at the museum's fine little dark theater with Flugge at the artistic controls."
John Petric - Other paper (May 24, 2009)
Featured Artist: Mark Flugge
CD Title: February's Promise
Year: 2002
Record Label: Produced by the Artist
Style: BeBop / Hard Bop
Musicians: Mark Flugge (piano), Doug Richeson (bass), Dave Dewitt (bass), Dave Weinstock (drums), Dane Richeson (drums), Kim Pensyl (trumpet and flugelhorn), Randy Mather (tenor saxophone)
Review: With his debut CD February’s Promise Mark Flugge brings to the jazz listener a superb collection of original compositions performed at high level of musical artistry. Flugge, who is on the music faculty of Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, demonstrates extremely tasteful musicianship in not only his highly creative and melodically rich writing, but also his sensitive and profound approach to the art of improvisation.

Flugge’s compositions are wide ranging and there is seemingly something for everyone on February’s Promise. The pieces range from high-energy mode based tunes such as the CD’s opener “Time’s Horizon,” with Flugge’s piano technique hinting at influences of Chick Corea. Flugge also has written beautiful ballads such as “The Borderland” and “The Letter.” Also the very pretty “Autumn’s Waltz,” suggests that Flugge has more than only casual familiarity with the music of pianist Bill Evans. There is also a fun, loose-swinging bluesy number “Drivin’ the Bus,” that brings to mind the funky hard bop of the 1950’s and 60’s. Flugge even pays tribute to his house pet with the tune “Beatrice, The Cat.”

Flugge has some very capable assistance on this CD. In addition to the great groove provided by the rhythm section there is superb soloing by bassist Doug Richeson. The horn players on the CD also shine. Both Randy Mather on tenor saxophone and Kim Pensyl on trumpet and flugelhorn improvise profound and intellectually provocative musical statements. Also not to be overlooked is the tasteful drumming of Dave Weinstock who provides just the right amount of drive for the band, and the work of bassist Dave Dewitt and drummer Dane Richeson who each recorded on one track.

Mark Flugge has produced a CD of excellent quality. February’s Promise is a pleasure to listen to. It is a highly recommended addition to any jazz fan’s collection.
Tracks: Time's Horizon, February's Promise, The Borderland, Drivin' the Bus, The Letter, Autumn's Waltz, Soiree, Beatrice The Cat, Around Every Corner, Blessings
Reviewed by: Craig W. Hurst
Craig W. Hurst -
February's Promise
Mark Flugge | Independent Records
By Gerard Cox

Jazz piano fans may likely be familiar with some real gems who have descended from Ohio. Start with that mighty Toledan Art Tatum, go on 30 years to another Toledan, Stanley Cowell, and then you find there are very some interesting (mostly non-Toledan) players in between. Take Hank Marr, Phil DeGreg, Bobby Floyd, Dan Wall, and finally, the subject of this review: one Mark Flugge.

Indeed, Flugge may after all be the best-kept secret on the black and whites from Ohio, because he's made a point to lay low, it would seem. Mark Flugge stands at a very musically mature stage, with a number of sideman recording credits to date. He has finally released a record as a leader. His debut, February's Promise is long overdue, but as it turns out, it's well worth the wait. It is an entirely original program of compositions and soloing that represents a landmark in his career.

Unlike some musician's debut records, very little of February's Promise was not well-conceived and does not represent an assuredly mature form of expression. Onto the music itself then, as there is plenty of notable material.

The opening track, "Time's Horizon", is quite reminiscent of a Chick Corea composition from his Inner Space record. There are a couple of notable wrinkles, though. After the characteristic modal-sounding head, the melody breaks for a solo blues chorus by Flugge. The soloing thereafter is based upon this same transition. The more one listens to this tune, the more one begins to appreciate how seamlessly the soloists moves from a modal sound to a blues sound; there's no sense of disruption. The very competent musicianship on display has something to do with that.

Mark Flugge states with no hesitation that Bill Evans has been a major influence, and the title track, "February's Promise", is a showpiece for Flugge and his trio to demonstrate the finer points they have absorbed from listening to the classic Bill Evans trios. Flugge's writing is a convincing piece of impressionism and as such, provides a perfect vehicle for the relaxed but thoughtful dialogue between the three players. Dave Dewitt, on bass, delivers an opening solo that completely sets the tone; it is warm and engaging, capturing fully the mahogany richness of his sound and adding more than a shade of harmonic nuance to "February's Promise". Flugge's solo is more direct, but he navigates the changes with a real pro's sensibility, and alas, generates the momentum to seal the deal here and take it right on out.

"The Borderland" turns out to be a beautiful dialogue between Kim Pensyl (on flugelhorn) and Flugge. This medium-tempo ballad has a very wistful sounding set of changes and a simple, plaintive melody that lingers in the mind. Pensyl's beautiful tone may have something to do with this too. Nice stuff.

"Drivin' the Bus" is a medium tempo blues in the tradition of Sam Jones' "Unit 7" and Benny Golson's "Killer Joe". It somewhat lacks the gusto and free-wheeling spirit that is evident when this group performs it live, but at least it gives you a sense that these men are more than able blues players. Randy Mather is noted for his soulful and inventive solo here. Mather has a sound that recalls Michael Brecker in ways, especially in his large, round, technically fulfilled sound, but also in his hard-boiled, teasingly approach to blues.

The remainder of the program has its fair share of highlights. "Autumn's Waltz" is another song in the Evans vein, and quite possibly the most well-crafted composition on February's Promise. "Soiree", meanwhile, is an up tune with a slightly Monkish melody. Flugge is known as a superb interpreter of Monk, so it figures we would hear that influence come into play at some point.

Some jazzmen dedicate their songs to lovers. Flugge decided to break the cycle and dedicated one to his cat. "Beatrice the Cat" is a gentle bossa, and by the nice contours and colours that come out in the course of this song, one begs to see what a wonderful sight this cat must be! Kim Pensyl takes his most memorable solo of the record- burnished and marked by an inscrutably patient approach to the changes.

Lastly, "Around the Corner" is another feature for Pensyl and the melody here is reminiscent of the Shearing quintet. Very nicely voiced indeed. A comfortably lazy tempo then allows a leisurely turn at solos that afford Pensyl, Flugge, and Richeson the best sequence of solos of the set. And alas- trading fours! Done briefly and with taste though, not wasting any notes.

Mark Flugge decides to say farewell on this, his bold "Hello I'm here!" to the jazz world, with a solo feature. The title of the track is "Blessings", and it's an intimate, nicely constructed piece that, fittingly, has a grateful, emotional quality. From striking arpeggiated voicings to delicate filigree over the top, it rewards listening.

The bottom line here though is if you like jazz piano tastefully executed, presented in a diverse program, and with a heartfelt, personalized touch- then February's Promise should definitely push the right buttons. It's a satisfying debut by someone who has a lot of music to give and at last is starting to show this to the larger world through the miracle of recorded sound.

-"February's Promise" is available independently through the artist. To obtain a copy, contact Flugge at . Mark Flugge can be heard regularly with his trio at the Hyde Park Grille and in various bands and configurations at Bexley's Monk, Dick's Den and the 501 Bar in Columbus, Ohio.
   HOME GROWN  - CD Review by John Petric,  “The Other Paper”

Mark Flugge can play piano. Well. Extremely well. His solo album, “IN LOVE, IN BLUE”, is here and you need it! Flugge takes on Cole Porter and Fats Waller, Sammy Cohn and Duke Ellington, Johnny Hodges and George Gershwin, and he makes them all his own – not an easy thing as a solo affair, but piano acapella is one of the most beautiful arts around. As for his two originals, one of them (“I Sulk On The Moon”), is an anagram of his favorite pianist. Guess who, then get the album -  or get the album and then guess who.  Whatever you do, just get the album!
John Petric - the other paper (Mar 24, 2007)
Many musicians tend to stay in similar, familiar settings for all their recordings. Thus, it’s no surprise that most of their CDs sound essentially the same. The songs change, but that’s about it. This philosopy, while valid, safe, and popular with their fans, is just one approach to producing a CD; an approach so far avoided by pianist Mark Flugge, whose attitude seems to be “…and now, for something completely different.”

His first CD as a leader, February’s Promise, found him in a quintet setting with trumpet and sax support, in a program of his straight-ahead jazz compositions. The format, style, and overall sound changed for his second recording, Familiarity, in which he was accompanied only by guitar and bass.

This variety of setting, sound, and approach continues on In Love, In Blue, a diverse selection of Great American Songbook standards, including Ellington’s “Prelude to a Kiss,” in which he evokes the romance, the excitement the song title suggests. “Misty” is even more languidly longing than the Garner original, while on Buddy Johnson’s “Since I Fell for You,” he instrumentally retains the bloozy melancholy of “love found, love lost” heard in the original vocal version by Billy Eckstine. Two of Mark’s originals are also included in the program.

Classically trained, the Flugge fingers fly with ease and imagination through a variety of piano jazz styles throughout the set, including the liveliness of stride, a bit of bop, more than a dash of blues, introspection, reflection, romance, all of which appear in his finale, a unique rendition of Gershwin‘s “Rhapsody In Blue.”