Tom Ollendorff plays ‘Open House’

Tom Ollendorff’s first album A Song For You received a plethora of accolades, with The Guardian newspaper describing it as “traditional but very classy” and both BBC Music Magazine and Jazz Journal awarding it 4 star reviews. I also got the opportunity to review the album back in May 2021 as well as a live review when Tom toured the album in March 2022.

Speaking about his new work, Tom Ollendorff says:

The music on this album was written (in part) on the road whilst touring. Different places have always had a profound impact on my writing process and the opportunity to tour extensively, allowing me to visit new towns, cities and countries as well as reaffirming connections with locations that I had previously got to know and love were the catalyst for this album’s creation.

‘Three Bridges’ is built around a very catchy refrain, which Tom lays out right from the start of the track before Ben Wendell adds his sax sound to the proceedings. The two musicians weave in and around the refrain playing off each others sound with very good rhythmic support from the drums and bass. This is a good, open bright sound that works well with guitar and sax leads. ‘Bongo Beep’ is a brisk paced tune with a great bass line, and solo, and dexterous guitar playing from Tom. This is a very good example of Tom’s ability in covering the work of other artists and a great way of breaking up the album – not that there is really any need considering the strength of Tom’s own compositions. It is only after you have been drawn in does the sound profile subtly slide into to a more contemporary sounding jazz number.

As one might expect with a title like ‘Carnival’ there is a light touch Latin feel about track four. We get to hear more of bass player Conor Chaplin and I do like his sound! Tom then picks up the tune and plays a very good solo with excellent support from Chaplin and Michel. Victor Young’s ‘My Foolish Heart’ ebbs and flows beautifully in this simple arrangement that works very well. The tempo on ‘Passing Ships’ is gentle with a sound that gives a nod to a seafaring folk tradition. The tune sounds relatively simple in style and delivery but it is the lyricism that draws the listener into this delightful number.

Album Artwork – Lee Madgwick

‘Istanbul’ brings back saxophonist Ben Wendel on a post-bop number, which he leads with a confident style. Tom Ollendorff takes over for a few bars before Ben takes the lead on the melody once more. Credit must go to drummer Marc Michel who gives added depth too both lead players with some quite wonderful drum patterns played without taking anything away from either saxophonist or guitarist. There is a short coda to ‘Istanbul’ with Tom layering the guitar sound, washes of cymbal from Michel and a plaintive sounding sax from Wendel.

‘Airgin’ was written by Sonny Rollins and played here in the guitar trio set up. Guitar and bass play off each other so well with just the right level of support from Michel on the drums. Once again Ollendorff shows how well he adapts the work of others to his guitar. Open House closes with an original composition, ‘Hollywood’, a ballad of shimmering beauty. This guitar based trio works so well, particularly the interaction between guitar and bass. There is a real sense of space in this number, like every individual note matters, and the elegant brushwork and delicate touch of cymbal from Michel adds an exquisite touch of style and elegance to this enchanting number.

Tom Ollendorff set a high standard with his debut album A Song For You. With Open House he shows that he is more than capable of living up to the plaudits his first release garnered. This set is not more of the same, it is a clear demonstration of compositional growth and confidence. The album is well balanced in style and delivery and with the addition of saxophonist Bern Wendel introduces a variation in sound profile. Open House can be found on the Fresh Sounds New Talent label from May 26th and the combination of a razor-sharp band that have worked with each other for many years, alongside an exciting new player with a natural synergy to the aforementioned group, makes Open House an exhilarating listen for jazz aficionado’s and discerning music fans alike.


Musicians: Tom Ollendorff – guitar; Ben Wendel – tenor sax on #1,3,6 & 7; Conor Chaplin – bass; Marc Michel – drums.

Tracklist & (composers): 1. Three Bridges (Tom Ollendorff). 2. Bongo Beep (Charlie Parker). 3. Passing Ships (Tom Ollendorff). 4. Carnival (Tom Ollendorff). 5. My Foolish Heart (Victor Young). 6. Istanbul (Tom Ollendorff). 7. Istanbul Coda (Tom Ollendorff). 8. Airegin (Sonny Rollins). 9. Hollywood (Tom Ollendorff).

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