Boogie Woogie Piano
Boogie woogie piano players are practically a dying breed these days, but if Caroline Dahl has her way, she could tub-thump a revival faster than you can move a baby grand. The Bay Area pianist unequivocally proves that the 88s are indeed her domain. It seems like nonstop boogie woogie every second and counting, but Dahl quietly and masterfully sprinkles and shades in other idioms as well, like the brilliantly expressive “Mexicali Rose Medley,” which includes both “Maleguena” and Chopin’s “Valse in D Flat,” or a touch of spicy Cuban on “Rumbah Numbah.” Interestingly enough, Dahl does this with mostly original material that never wears thin. Besides being tastefully tuneful, some of it’s breathtaking (“Waltz for Jake,” “Mary Lou’s Blues”) while a little of it gives a lounge piano a short-lived sense of respectability (“Nerve Knot”). Nobody, not even Schroeder, ever sounded this good.
If you read [my] comments on the first recording (“No Hats”), I could just rewrite them here. BUT it’s different stuff. I was very curious how she could follow that first effort and here it is and I think it’s great. Her cover of a standard that all boogie piano players do, “Swanee River Boogie,” is rockin’ steady and boogie friendly – Caroline Style. Cool. This instrumental music does not meander along. Melodies and pleasing phrases, good playing and variety… You sort of forget about the boogie sometimes, but it is right there under it all. And she senses when to pull you back down to the basic boogie at just the right time. I don’t know of another player like her. You will recognize Caroline in an instant once you hear her. This is surely a characterisic of a fine artist. This is not strictly boogie, but there’s very few artists that can make that happen for a whole record in my opinion. And once you hear this CD, it won’t matter anyway. Actually, it makes the boogie parts that much more powerful and pleasing as you experience the variety of music here. You even hear a test out into a jazzy mode sort of. Lot’s of great places to explore. And the cool album covers she created deserve a mention. Creativity all over the place. Not room for a dull moment with this artist!
ISWM INDIE PICK OF THE MONTH (Jan. ’04) — Instead of falling back on the old standards that many pianists replicate, Caroline seeks her own sound. Her impulsive beats and relentless rhythms drive her sound into near-frenzy. Totally original, but far from being over-stated, Caroline pumps out the songs in a way that would make Jerry Lee Lewis beg for mercy. Her flair for performance without overplaying a song to death is one of the best features about Caroline’s songwriting. She plays on her strengths and lets the music lead the way. Being an instrumental CD, we are blessed with the opportunity to hear every bounce and beat of Caroline’s fast-flight fingers. She knows how to rock when it’s time to rock, and she can boogie-woogie with the best of them. A balance that’s just right when you need to get them hips shaking.
She says she’s a boogie woogie freak, but she’s really the next link in the line of great saloon/whore house piano players. Playing with the vibe of the spirit of a Dave McKenna without plowing the same field, Dahl kicks it into high gear early and doesn’t back off. Sure it doesn’t fit the format, but any self respecting adult still buying music will have a hard time pulling this out of the player of choice. A swinging, upbeat set that’s at the very least well timed to chase away winter gloom, it’s simply a gasser that any piano fan will enjoy. Check it out.
Caroline is a standout interpreter of old style boogie-woogie. Her second piano album “Night House” is pure gold! It contains 14 examples of her diverse repertoire. She is at once a terrific “bar room” roughhouse and a refined keyboard artist who can go in many directions. The first three tracks will grab you as fine and fun boogie, but then check out her fourth track Mexicali Rose Medley. You may not believe it! You’ll recognize the title song but then what’s this? Segue to Chopin? Valse in D Flat! Piano teacher redux! And is that Maleguena? Now Caravan? Spanish Eyes? And this is all in track four!! From then on, you can’t wait to see what other surprises are in store on the rest of the CD. If you have no boogie woogie artist in your library, this is the one to start with.
Whatever your previous thoughts are regarding “boogie woogie piano,” I think you’ll be in for a big surprise when you listen to Caroline Dahl tell you what it’s really all about (without a single word!) After listening to “NIght House,” recorded at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, I can easily understand how fans of Caroline Dahl must have jumped for joy with the release of this second CD. Personally, I have no excuse for the fact that a recent listening to “Night House” was my first exposure to her talent. Better late than never, for sure. I can’t say that I’ve ever been motivated to buy a CD of boogie woogie music (silly me) but I have seen this artist’s name around quite a bit and I am very glad to have finally heard some of her work. After the first three cuts, I could clearly see how talented she is, but it wasn’t until the fourth track, “Mexicali Rose Medley” that I sort of sat up and paid attention. I just relaxed and enjoyed the audible grace, accuracy and feeling. Dahl is referred to as a (self-taught!) “master pianist of American indigenous piano styles.” She adds Chopin to that medley because she CAN! Each tune seems to offer a little different slant on the featured boogie woogie style, and demonstrates her deep understanding of all its musical “relatives.” Throughout my audio-journey, I was taken onto river boats, into ballrooms, juke joints and concert halls by lilting melodies, brawling chords, foot-stompin’ powerhouse rhythms, and, alas, a left hand any piano player would die for (so to speak). I loved the drama, passion, humor and beauty of this CD.
Caroline’s previous album, “No Hats,” marked her out as a pianist of some renown. Her style owes more to the barrelhouse than the cocktail lounge, despite the photo on the liner notes showing her at Liberace’s piano. For her latest outing she is once again supported by drummers Kent Bryson and Bowen Brown, but has also recruited Tim Wagar on bass for most of the tracks too. The bass and drums certainly earn their money for just keeping up on “Highballing The Overnighter,” which like most of the tunes here is a Dahl original. The first of her two non-original tracks, “Mexacali Rose Medley,” is composed of [several] somewhat unlikely bedfellows. That the whole lot hangs together is down to Dahl’s keen ear and considerable playing talents. Although most of the numbers are played as a trio, there is also one solo track (“Waltz For Jake,” which reminded me a bit of Vince Guaraldi), and three quartet pieces. Tom Rigney contributes violin to the strolling rhytyhm of “Jackson Ramble,” whilst Rob Sudduth blows tenor sax on “River City” and “Trearing Up Heaven,” which closes the album in some considerable style. “Night House” maintains and, in places, surpasses the high standards set by “No Hats.” Anyone who likes their blues piano to be mostly uptempo and belted out will be highly satisfied. Even if you are not a big piano fan, many of the tunes on “Night House” are infectiously catchy, so you are almost guaranteed to be tapping your toes by the end. (Review copyright © 2004 by Gordon Baxter and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.)
Caroline Dahl is a piano player from the Bay area. And an internationally-exhibited fabric artist (two of her creations adorn the album). And a composer. And did I mention piano player? I mean a real, rollicking boogie-woogie ivory tinkler like they don’t hardly make any more. But she doesn’t just play the oldies. In fact, on this, her second release for Globe Records, every selection is either by Dahl or arranged by Dahl. For the “Mexicali Rose Medley,” Dahl calls on the main subject, Tenney and Stone’s “Mexicali Rose,” adds some of Tizol and Ellington’s “Caravan,” Singleton’s “Spanish Eyes,” and seasons nicely with Chopin’s “Valse in D Flat.” It makes a tasty musical treat. This is an excellent album and an excellent display of boogie-woogie piano at its best. Dahl’s compositions are very well crafted and executed with style and energy. This is mostly get-up-and-dance music or at least foot-tapping music for those of us who are dancing-impaired. If you love boogie-woogie, if you just sort of like some occasional boogie-woogie, or if you’re not really sure what boogie-woogie is, this is the album for you. Great fun.
The San Francisco-via-Louisville keyboard ace delivers a dizzying array of genres. Tracks such as the evocative “Waltz for Jake” underscore Dahl’s tendency to alter her genre studies slightly, putting a personal stamp on country (“Jackson Ramble”), New Orleans music (“Rumbah Numbah”), jazz (“Nerve Knot”), swing (“Mexicali Rose Medley”), and boogie woogie (“Payday Boogie” and “Junebug Boogie”). Rob Sudduth on tenor sax and the rhythm section of Tim Wagar (bass) and Kent Bryson and Bowen Brown (drums) support Dahl’s smart, sensitive playing.
[Translated from the Italian] Caroline Dahl is an excellent piano player with flashy technique her specialty in the excellent CD “Night House.” Its mixture includes Carribbean influence alla Professor Longhair (“Rumbah Numbah”), country swing and very entertaining boogie woogie. The fourteen instrumentals (12 originals) are of a percussive Afro-American character that lend themselves to low dive barrooms and concert halls. This experience is however re-read in a totally personal synthesis. Even the meditative title track — a complex blues that departs from the frothy sparkle dominating the CD — evokes a 20th century aesthetic of inclusiveness in which blues is only one of the components, appealing to a wide audience without alienating the affections of strict blues-o-philes. Dahl, transforming herself into a folk artist, briefly picks up the accordion for “Mary Lou’s Blues” and tells us in an earlier interview about her participation in the International Festival of the Accordion in Castelfidardo, where she was impressed by the accordion makers and the young European accordion players.
With Night House, pianist Caroline Dahl pays apt tribute to the colorful traditions of boogie woogie. On “Swanee River Boogie,” she interweaves two traditional folk melodies (“Red River Valley” and “Old Folks at Home”) in homage to historic piano giants like Albert Ammons and Eubie Blake. But Dahl really shines when she blurs the lines of historic conventions. Twelve of the record’s 14 tracks are original works on which she blasts through a handful of mixed influences. She dresses out traditional stomping bass lines with touches of jazz harmony, country swing and early rock n’ roll. Even in the moments when Dahl’s mischievous musical stew has an odd flavor, Night House succeeds as a vibrant document in the increasingly scholastic boogie tradition because of its many musical risks. If the genre’s purists have a distate for Dahl’s fusions, so much the better. After all, boogie woogie has been about causing trouble since the beginning.
There is a long & rich tradition of piano Blues encompassing Boogie-woogie & Barrelhouse styles. Caroline Dahl is keeping those traditions alive in what is predominantly a male-dominated genre. The 14 cuts on “Night House” are mainly Boogie-woogie with elements of Blues, country & swing in a variety of line-ups from solo piano to quartets featuring sax or violin. With 12 of the 14 tracks here being her own compositions, one begins to appreciate the depth of Caroline’s talent. In order to experience the breadth of her talent as well as the depth, surf along to her website & discover that she is also an award-winning & internationally exhibited textile artist. Caroline knows how to swing — big time.
With her second album Night House, Caroline Dahl has proved once again that she is of the rare species “female boogie woogie piano player,” and does not have to hide behind her male colleagues. To the contrary, she interprets the 14 songs mostly written by herself in a powerful and dynamic way filled with emotion. The American artist’s unique melodical style combined with her love for detail runs through all of the tracks like a red thread. Borrowing from Rumba, Jazz-Waltz and Waltz, she takes the listener on a fantastic ride through her world of music, never giving away what surprising turn is lurking in the next measure, let alone song. Halfway through the album, one can relax a bit listening to tracks like “Night House” or “Waltz for Jake.” Then the boogie woogie train takes up speed again and goes stomping through the varied landscape, passing River City, the Red River Valley and along the Swanee River. During the last song, “Tearing Up Heaven,” the listener leans back in satisfaction, having seen (or heard) a piece of boogie heaven.
Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. It’s Caroline Dahl. Well, okay, maybe not leaping tall buildings. But Ms. Dahl’s piano playing on this CD certainly exmplifies the first two qualities. As a piano player myself I can appreciate the practice and muscle it took to achieve what she can do. The 14 tracks add up to 59 minutes of fast, powerful piano instrumentals with minimal accompaniment by bass and drums.
[translated from French] Ah! One of the few female exponents of piano blues boogie . . . but more than that, she expresses a style of her own from the very first notes (which isn’t the case so often of her male counterparts). She is very inspired by the romantic fusion pioneered by James Booker on Chopin mixed with Professor Longhair. She’s also an inspired keyboard player with fluid playing on happy mood themes which she really builds up into memorable melodies and not just long technical solos like so many players. Even old classics like Mexicali Rose or that worn out Swanee River get a refreshing treatment, a personal touch. The best description of her playing lays in the covers of her own CDs with her warm and colorful tapestries and needle-work. A real and genuine talent to be discovered soon.
[translated from Italian] The new CD “Night House” by Caroline Dahl is most certainly very original. Noteworthy among the artistic qualities of this pianist is the ability to produce a sound extremely energetic and dynamic as in the songs “June Bug Boogie” and “River City.”
The tunes [on “Night House”] are played with great energy and dexterity in a mix of styles including boogie-woogie, blues, jazz and country swing. If you like piano played in the various American roots styles, this is a great recording of a talented player and composer.
As I endure pretty bad instrumental CDs (except from people like Johnny & the Hurricanes, Les Ventures, Duane Eddy or boogie piano), I dreaded these 14 instrumental tunes from a California pianist hearalded like jazz Americana. My anxiety was quickly dissipated. This pianist, who performed in 2002 at “Les Nuits Jazz & Boogie Piano” in Paris, and who is accompanied with good musicians from San Francisco, elaborates good boogies, recognizing sometimes the tones of Professor Longhair (“Highballing the Overnighter” and especially “Rumbah Numbah”) or Fats Domino (“Jackson Ramble”). There are only three insipid jazz cool cabaret tunes, but they don’t change too much for the worse.
Caroline is an excellent piano and accordion player who some years ago was a member of the great Metropolitan Blues All Stars band. You will find a variety of solo piano, duets, trios and some quartets on “Night House,” where Caroline keeps the same path of quality, good technique and professional playing. Very good.
The pianist Caroline Dahl, whose notoriety does not cease growing, produced a first album, “No Hats,” which was reviewed here in 2002. Recognizable with the first notes of piano, Caroline affirms a very personal style. From the very start, this second album, “Night House,” is announced like a logical continuation of its predecessor, which already was of very good quality. At the end of the third track of “Night House,” we have heard two boogies. Then a first medley, an exercise that Caroline loves, called “Mexicali Rose,” is followed a few cuts later by a second medley, “Swanee River Boogie,” built around the traitional “Red River Valley” and “Old Folks at Home.” The violinist Tom Rigney, whose recent album “Happy To Be Here,” reviewed here a few months ago, and on which Caroline plays, appears on another “Night House” cut, “Jackson Ramble,” to which he brings a pleasant Louisiana style. The title cut “Night House” is jazzy. The piano remains the center of interest of this album and will be satisfying to fans of this instrument. Those who were able to see Caroline in Paris in 2002 know what a fine artist she is.
[translated from German] Caroline Dahl is a many-sided artist as she has impressively demonstrated with her second CD, “Night House.” After her classical piano studies, she became interested in Jerry Lee Lewis and the traditional boogie woogie pianists so that her playing is rich in nuance. She has appeared with many bands and at many festivals. On this CD we hear traditionals as well as original compositions that go way beyond three-chord music. All lovers of boogie will take pleasure in this CD, and those who don’t know this music style well should give it a try.
Caroline Dahl displays an impressive command of boogie woogie, blues, rhythm & blues, ragtime, country swing and rock & roll piano styles. On “No Hats,” she keeps the focus on her compelling keyboard artistry by using only drumset accompaniment, ably assisted by drummers Jimmy Sanchez, Kent Bryson, John Hanes and Bowen Brown. Highlights include her arrangement of James Booker’s “Tico Tico Medley,” a rollicking “Caroline’s Boogie,” and the evocative and spirited “Kentucky Sampler.”
If you were weaned on thumpin’ boogie woogie and absolutely revel in the sounds, improvisation and traditions of the boogie woogie genre, then buy this album and hear Ms. Dahl wear out four, yes count ’em four, drummers in twelve tracks of stonking boogie piano.
If you like blues, ragtime, swing, and boogie-woogie piano players flavored with a “classical” touch, you will certainly enjoy Caroline Dahl’s CD published under her own name. Fresh emotion and bright liveliness are good words for this CD. GREAT.
Caroline is a piano player with a strong emphasis on boogie woogie. She really does have some fine chops and a rolling, pounding left hand that almost renders accompaniment unnecessary. She wisely opts for just drums. Almost all the songs are original. Some are medleys. One is credited to James Booker (“Tico Tico”) while “Kentucky Sampler” is a pastiche of traditional melodies – or at least sounds like it! Dahl overdubs a little accordion in here for good measure! Dahl has phenomenal technique. I would like to hear her in a line up with a vocalist.
Caroline is a self-taught “professor” with a vigorous (that’s me being restrained) approach to her instrument firmly bedded in indigenous American piano styles. “No Hats” is a rompin’ stompin’ good time for all lovers of the heavy timbre “88.”
Here’s a rip-snortin’ romp through a dozen piano-led instrumentals that will get you out on the dance floor with some toe-tappin’ if’n you ain’t dead yet.
Caroline’s deft digits create astounding artistry.
An extraordinary boogie woogie piano player with a charming Southern drawl, Caroline Dahl pounds the keyboard at eccentric Mama’s Royal Café in Mill Valley. I hear that “Caroline’s Boogie,” a cut on her Globe Records CD, “No Hats,” goes great with the Belgian waffle.
ISWM INDIE PICK OF THE MONTH – Aug. 2001: If you came here to cry, you just better turn around and head on home, honey. Even the tear-jerkers here are too good to waste on boo-hoo tears. There’s a touch of Art Tatum complexity and finger dexterity bopping around on those keys. It’s full of sass. The sparks fly with every chord change. Caroline is a mega-talent on the piano; a sultry siren of sublime inspiration. Sometimes her left hand knows not what the right hand doeth, and what a delicious sound it creates. Let this one twirl around your head for a while.
[translated from the German] Caroline Dahl delivers a highly interesting instrumental album which moves among Boogie, Blues, Ragtime, Swing and also some classical. Occasional chord progressions raise the excitement level just as does the varied percussion accompaniment. Exceptional is Dahl’s ability to unite formidable keyboard technique with great emotional sensitivity. The colorful mixture, sounding also a bit like Alan Price and Pop music, has been recorded leisurely, inviting as much to reflection as to dancing. It may not all be Blues, but “twelve-bar” addicts will also be pleased.
1st cut on No Hats CD is “Caroline’s Boogie.” Bang, out of the shoot, first cut. Good piano sound, and a boogie pattern in the left hand, but not one of the familiar ones. It sounds like it will be a classic three chord boogie romp, but then she takes us off through some chords and changes that build interest as well as satisfying the need for driving boogie. Actually that’s a good description of this whole CD! We get a taste of so many different kinds of music throughout this work and in the physical arrangement I like best – that of piano and drums alone. This mix is ideal – just enough drums and the piano way out in front. There’s so much more than boogie going on here. I guess it’s just good old American roots combined – progressive roots music and I like it. If you like good sounding energy piano, you’ve got to love this CD. And top that off with her ability to know when to step on that boogie pedal – a fantastic first effort. I’m ready for more. She couples guts and dexterity with a huge musical warehouse of chords, phrases, rhythms and ideas. Oh, yes and ENERGY!
Caroline is a straight ahead no nonsense pianist. On “No Hats” she trawls her way through a cornucopia of blues piano styles, accompanied on most of the tracks by the Bay Area’s finest drummers. Her breadth of blues knowledge also reflects a deep seated understanding of the music, reflected in the fact that 11 of the 12 tracks here are original compositions. The album opens with “Caroline’s Boogie,” which leaves you with no doubt about her credentials. It’s an album that constantly keeps you on your toes with its frequent changes of style and tempo. “No Hats” is proof positive that Caroline Dahl knows her way around the 88s, and is definitely one for the blues piano connoisseurs. (Review copyright © 2001 by Gordon Baxter and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.)
Caroline plays the piano with impressive ease. Her dexterity (one can do that with only two hands??) has of equal only the quality of her arrangements. Caroline connects the pieces with brilliance.