“Field Guide (Digital Victrola, 2022) is the impressive debut album by the Andy Ostwald Trio. The album consists of inspired interpretations of tunes spanning five decades. From Jimmy Van Heusen to Wayne Shorter, Keith Jarrett to Abdullah Ibrahim, we are treated to a variety of jazz styles, adapted for piano, bass, and drums. Plus one original composition by pianist and band leader, Ostwald.
Ostwald is a San Francisco Bay Area-based musician who performs as a soloist, band leader, and sideman, and as a member of Jeff Sanford’s Cartoon Jazz Nonet. He teaches piano at his home in Oakland, and is an instructor at Oaktown Jazz Workshops, a community-based after school program for young people ages 10-18.
Here, Ostwald talks about his new album and his life in music.”
Translated: “Andy Ostwald Trio has succeeded in producing an album with music that combines several varieties into an overall relaxed and professionally processed result. A mixture of light jazz, including a few fusion elements, maybe a bit of Erroll Garner and sometimes the mood of jazz as it is played around midnight in some dark bars, definitely very entertaining.”
“Field Guide by the Andy Ostwald Trio [is] light and springy but with some tasty meat too. With classic styling and flawless piano execution, Ostwald closes this strong first effort, solo style, with elegance.”
“Accessible, tuneful trio jazz is the order of the day on Field Guide. Pianist Andy Ostwald has a winning, catchy style that will bring a smile to listeners’ lips (and set their foot a-tapping). The rhythm section of Ravi Abcarian (bass) and Bryan Bowman on drums supports Ostwald, but what they’re doing merits close attention as well. This is timeless jazz in a classic style; there’s nothing about the tunes and arrangements that places the music in any particular era, other than to say that it would be most at home among releases from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Tasty stuff.”
“One little band from America find new ways to elevate traditional values, take it all above the obvious and get away with it. Comfort and warmth fill these numbers. A field for the intrepid spirits to stand out in.”
“This simply beautiful, decadently layered new album opens on the free flowing majesties of Sonar and the quieter, astutely precise melodies of Falling Grace and then seamlessly blends those with the drum-led rhythms of Sweet Emma, the mesmerizing Virgo and then comes the impressive To Wisdom the Prize.
Next up is one of my own personal favorites from this new recording, the dulcet magnificence of Meadow’s Edge which is in turn backed by the organic nature of Memories of Tomorrow, then come the melodic textures within I Hear a Rhapsody, the consummate Beatrice, the album rounding out with the gently swirl and twirl of Like Someone in Love, coming to a close on the heavenly divine orchestrations of The Wedding.”
“A vet Bay area piano trio that has the sound and fury of a swinging crew that could take root best in that environment. Sassy, summer Friday after work sounds—-to hear this at that time would be the only reason we could think of for going back to the office now. There’s no question they’re tight and have it going on and you can tell they play it all on the natch. Well done.”
Andy Ostwald is a San Francisco Bay area-based performer, teacher, and author of the book Play Jazz, Blues, Rock Piano by Ear. He performs as a band leader, sideman, solo pianist, and as a member of Jeff Sanford’s Cartoon Jazz Orchestra. Now with his own ANDY OSTWALD TRIO he is proud to present their debut full-length release FIELD GUIDE on March 18, 2022. The album is a true Field Guide for that meadow we’ve seen before but never traversed, featuring intimate and intensely focused improvised musical travels through overlooked gardens and orchards of sound. Grab a copy of the Field Guide and enjoy your trip!
Andy Ostwald has toured the US and abroad with singer Diane Witherspoon and has performed at many of the San Francisco Bay Area’s notable venues, including the SF Jazz Center, Yoshi’s Oakland & SF, Kuumbwa, and the Great American Music Hall. In 2011, Andy Ostwald began performing with fellow Bay Area musicians Ravi Abcarian (bass) and Bryan Bowman (drums), and the ANDY OSTWALD TRIO was born. They largely developed their group sound while performing at Bocce Café in the North Beach district of San Francisco, an engagement that lasted for five years until 2016. It was during this run that the musicians honed their ability to interact freely and play off one another’s musical ideas.
As a fellow member of Jeff Sanford’s Cartoon Jazz Orchestra, trumpeter Eric Wayne knew the trio and offered to help them record and release their debut album through his own Digital Victrola label. Andy was prepared with a fully formed album concept, including the title FIELD GUIDE, which allowed them to get straight to the business of finding the best material for the release. Recorded during the pandemic, resources were scarce, and it was difficult to find a studio with a worthy piano; they decided to record in Andy Ostwald’s own home with his personal piano on an 8-track HD recorder. They were able to make the most of the home studio environment, with the craftsman-style wood house giving the recording a warm and full sound.
“Since starting Digital Victrola I’ve always had a desire to record a trio album,” says Eric Wayne. “Even though I’m a trumpet player I’ve always felt that the trio format is the distilled essence of jazz and improvisatory music. Every player has to be fully committed, has to listen with their entire body and mind. It was an honor to work with such musicians under the difficulties of a pandemic and limited resources and space, but I’m very happy to have ‘my trio album’ and I hope you will enjoy listening as much as I have.”
Andy Ostwald’s father played a key role in his early musical development. “My dad made a point of introducing me to his favorite early jazz and classical recordings,” says Andy. “He would also pick up his violin and improvise melodies over the scales that I was practicing on the piano; Dad could breathe life into those scales.” By age 12 Andy began improvising over rock songs, and couple of years later he attended a clinic by jazz pianist Dan Hearle, who introduced him to recordings by three towering figures of jazz piano: Herbie Hancock, Ahmad Jamal, and Oscar Peterson. “The music these musicians created both moved and mystified me,” notes Ostwald, “and in the end, contributed to steering me in the direction of jazz.”
Ostwald received a BA in music from San Jose State University. While there he focused on performing contemporary jazz, classical compositions, and the Gamelan music of Java, and a few years later he spent a year in New York studying with renowned jazz pianist Harold Mabern. Following his stay in New York, Andy returned to his native San Francisco Bay Area to teach and play music. Soon thereafter he met singer Diane Witherspoon and became her piano accompanist. They performed locally on tour in the States, and then on several occasions in Tokyo. Currently Ostwald is a member of Jeff Sanford’s Cartoon Jazz Orchestra and freelances as both a band leader and sideman.
Andy teaches piano at his home in Oakland. He’s also an instructor at Oaktown Jazz Workshops, where Ravi Abcarian is also an instructor and the executive director. Ostwald’s book/audio series Play Jazz, Blues, Rock Piano by Ear was published by Mel Bay Publications in 2004. It remains in print today.
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