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Grand Pianoramax Jams SXSW

Anthony Dean-Harris
anthony.deanharris[at]nextbop[dot]com / @retronius

[Listen to Grand Pianoramax in the Nextplayer]

US: iTunes, Amazon CD, Amazon MP3
Canada: iTunes, Amazon CD

I've got a friend who I'm making a special project of expanding his taste. Normally when hanging out with him, we'll listen to all kinds of electronic music in his car while heading to shows of a similar ilk. He's turned me onto all kinds of different musicians like Bonobo (whose album Black Sands made it onto Nextbop's 2010 Best Albums of Everything Else list) and The Flashbulb, whose performance we attended during South By Southwest was rather impressive (but I'll get onto that subject later down the line). Yet, often when I recommend a show to him, I often get a brusque "haven't heard of it" and a meander into new plans. This time for our trip to Austin for South By Southwest, I made sure to press a little firmer for Grand Pianoramax's March 18th show at Malaia Upstairs. He, along with the rest of the crowd, may have just become converts.

The duo of Leo Tardin on keyboard and Dominik Burkhalter on drums are infectious. The crowd, like any standard non-jazz show, was abuzz with their own chatter only early on before becoming transfixed with the grooves of the first song. Anyone who wasn't completely enraptured and jamming be the end of the first song had their attention quickly corralled by the time Black Cracker joined the group during the second song to add his raps. The entirety of the just over half hour set was from Grand Pianoramax's latest album, Smooth Danger, an album replete with hip hop and electronic influences which make for great material perfect for this hodgepodge festival. If Austin's 6th Street has absolutely every form of music under the sun, Grand Pianoramax's set distilled many of these elements into one small room for one of the highlight shows of the festival.

Malaia Upstairs is a relatively small venue, more of a small nightclub, really. Yet the group managed to make full use of the space, fully adaptive to their circumstances as any good jazz musician should be. The venue was even a second choice as the group was slated to play in a much larger room and was placed here at the last second. All the while, the trio endured and enraptured the attendees. Even when Tardin’s levels on his keyboards were a little low, he kept playing along with full bravado. The crowd didn’t miss a thing.

What was most apparent about the show was how immediately impressed this crowd was. Questions rang throughout the crowd in absolute astonishment asking who this group was? Where did they come from? Where has this group been all their lives? (Okay, I’m putting words in folks’ mouths but that sentiment was certainly felt.) If SXSW is a music festival focused specifically on discovery, this show was clearly what this whole hullabaloo was all about.