Thursday, February 4, 2010

Piano Short Takes

That - Trio This (GM Recordings) - This is a pleasing collection of tunes ranging from melodic originals from pianist Barney McAll, fascinating trio explorations from drummer George Schuller, and smart covers.  Bassist Matt Pavolka rounds out the ensemble and is the "rock" of the band, allowing Schuller to really explore his drum kit and play with the rhythms.  What stands out are the handsome melodies, not just fragments to play once and then move int extended solos.  Even funky excursions like Les McCann's "Get That Soul" has a good melody line. McAll feels really comfortable in ballad settings so pieces like "Flashback" (an original) and Henry Mancini's "Dreamsville" are allowed to move easily, at their own pace, without loading on gratuitous solos.  Even Wayne Shorter's "Pug Nose" (one of his earliest pieces) lopes along at an easy pace, swinging nicely over Pavolka's walking bass and Schuller's sensitive brush work.
"That" is good music, good listening, an intimate session of like-minded players having fun creating a memorable experience.  Ease into it and allow the sweet sounds to take hold.  For more information, go to

Antibes - Greg Reitan (Sunnyside Records) - A friend thought that this music sounded like the Bill Evans Trio work from the early 1960s.  A nativ of Seattle, Washington, Reitan has a gentle touch, a propensity for melody, and a calmness in his approach similar to that of Fred Hersch.  Not to say that this music is all stillness and soft candlelight (Reitan's "One Step Ahead" opens with great intensity before bassist Jack Daro slows the pace with his solo spot.)  Mostly, the program is ballads or medium-tempo tunes - drummer Dean Koba is a real asset, playing with intelligence and smoldering intensity that makes pieces like the title tune glisten and dance like candlelight in the breeze. There's a refreshing classical music influence on the title track and, juxtaposed with walking bass lines and shimmering cymbal work, is a smart entry to Reitan's musical world.  "Salinas" sparkles with a lilting piano line and a propulsion from the bass and drums that ebbs and flows organically.  Reitan's touch is skillful, crisp, he knows when to hold back and when to surge forward and does so without sounding clumsy or forced ("September" is a perfect example of his intelligent work.) The version of "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" that closes the program is truly lovely.
"Antibes" is Greg Reitan's second CD with his Trio and, like the first, is worth exploring in depth.  To find out more, go to

New Strides - Jeb Patton (MaxJazz) - The first word that comes to mind when listening to "Billy", the opening track of pianist Patton's 3rd CD s a leader, is joy.  The song sounds so bright, so light and bouncy (but not cloying) that it's tough to resist.  Bassist David Wong and drummer Pete Van Nostrand swing with great zeal, yet never overpower the leader.  The venerable standard "My Ideal" has a similar light-hearted feel and, truly, that permeates the entire program, even in the tender and bluesy reading of "Last Night When We Were Young", a duet with Jimmy Heath (playing soprano saxophone.)  Albert "Tootie" Heath appears on 3 tracks (Patton sits in the piano chair of the Heath Brothers Band) and really spurs on the pianist and bassist.  Jimmy Heath's "Cloak and Dagger" is a bluesy romp with a spirited drum exchange while the original tribute to fellow pianist Roland Hanna "Sir Roland" displays "Tootie's"great knack for laying back and then pushing hard (when need be.)  Patton's two-handed solo is a true delight.  
Perhaps the only misstep (to my taste) is the hard-bop romp on "If Ever I Would Leave You" - the trio plays just fine but the emotional intent of tune seems muted.  Other than that, "New Strides" is easy to take. For more information, go to

Indelicate - Dave King (Sunnyside Records) - Yes, that Dave King, the drummer in The Bad Plus and Happy Apple, in the same review as a bunch of pianists.  "Indelicate", a word that has been linked to King's drumming on several occasions, is the tite of this CD, a "duo" disk with King as the rhythm section (drum kit and electronic percussion) and playing acoustic piano (one might detect a bit of warped "surf guitar" on "Homage: Young People.") He, also, wrote all the tracks.  There are moments when I actually expect to hear the drummer say "thank you" to his Bad Plus bandmate Ethan Iverson because several of the pieces have that BP sound.  This music often has a thickness, especially in the heaviness of the bass lines (King's left hand) and the "mighty" drum work.  Yet there are pieces where the drumming is as melodic as the piano lines (such as "Bees".)  King put a lot of thought into the program - each piece stands on its own and there are myriad influences at work ("concrete musique", dreamy classical on "The Black Dial Tone of Night", gospel cum Steve Reich on "I Want to Feel Good", spasmodic Jerry Lee Lewis on "Arts High Boogie".)  There are flashes of humor in this music as well as tender moments.  "I See You, You See Me" is a carefully drawn ballad, Erik Satie-like in its plaintive melody and backing chords (and is anything but indelicate.)
This CD packs a lot of music in its 37 and 1/2 minutes. Dave King is more than the rhythmic drive behind several groups; he has a lot to say and has given listeners plenty to digest.  For more information, go to

No comments:

Post a Comment