Thursday, February 10, 2011

Carry-On Companions (Part Two)

We're Here To Listen - Leslie Pintchik (Pintch Hard) - Ms. Pintchik, composer, arranger and pianist and her group - Scott Hardy (bass, acoustic guitar) and Mark Dodge (drums) plus guest percussionist Satoshi Takeishi - play with beauty, sensitivity, dexterity and a desire to connect with the listener on a personal and emotional level.  On this, her 3rd release, she proves herself to be a musical poet and painter.  Opening the program with Bob Dylan's "Blowin' In The Wind", one can hear this is a band that listens, reacts and enjoys interplay. The tune is rearranged, given an arrangement that allows the rhythms to open up at the end of the verses - Dodge and Takeishi kick the piece into a samba beat that is infectious and Ms. Pintchik rides joyously atop it.  Hardy's bass solo, played (mostly) in the higher register, is wonderfully melodic but is also the start of a trend that nearly undermines the program.  It's not faint praise to say that Hardy is a skilled and very musical bassist. The lines he plays beneath the piano are rich with ideas but he solos on all but 2 of the 10 tracks.  And, it's usually right after the pianist finishes her solo. His solos are really good but the pieces become predictable because of the lack of variety in the arrangement.
The CD is ripe with beautiful tracks, from the lovely chestnut "For All We Know" to the Monk-influenced and blues-drenched "In the Wrong Place at the Right Time" (dedicated to U.S. Airways pilot "Sully" Sullenberger and his safe emergency landing in the Hudson River.)  On the latter piece, the interaction of the pianist with percussionist Takeishi is divine and quite fun.  The swing feel of "There You Go" is delightful while bassist Hardy's "Ancient" has a lovely melody line -  the mood shifts within the song are highly effective. On this, the last track on the CD, the bassist finally gets to solo first and it's a welcome change. 
The arrangement of "I Can't Make You Love Me" (composed by Mike Red and Allen Shamblin but made famous by Bonnie Raitt) opens up slowly and you can help but feel the tension that the words hold conveyed in the music. About 2/3rds of the way through the 7 minute + track, the 4 musicians break the mood by speeding up the piece and, while it's well done, it seems superfluous after the handsome and affecting slow portion.
I can't ignore the work of the 2 percussionists. This music never really gets loud yet the supportive work of Dodge and the colors that Takeishi provides are impressive throughout.  Their interactions with the pianist and bassist keeps the listener involved, even on the ballads.
Despite my criticisms, "We're Here To Listen" is worth investigating. Much of the music has great depth, there is humor, sadness and flashes of exuberance; in other words, this is music of the human condition.  Approach it with open ears and you'll find plenty to enjoy.  For more information, go to There, you will find a link to the DVD of this band in concert - watch the clip that is provided and see the magic of creative interplay. 

Mechanism - Florian Ross (Pirouet) - This CD of solo piano pieces (with occasional loops added) is the reason for the title of the column.  I've listened to the 38-year old German born pianist/composer's program over a dozen times and I can't seem to find the proper words to describe its hold on me.  This is not hard-edged and angular music nor is it "New Age" noodling.  17 tracks in under 56 minutes means few pieces are drawn out - in fact, 2 are barely over 60 second long and another 6 don't reach 3 minutes.  Yet, the listener is never cheated, whether it's the dazzling pianistics of "Gyorgy" (63 seconds long) to the Erik Satie-like blues of "Catflap" (2 minutes), the songs do not feel incomplete.  When Ross does stretch out, as he does on the 6 minute "Rondo Nr. 1", he varies the tempo and intensity to keep one's attention on the lovely, lilting, melody line he composed.  There are times when one hears the influence of Keith Jarrett in the rumbling left hand rhythms but that does not happen often.  The pianist's focus is on melody, on the harmonies the chords provide and imply.  One feels impelled to listen, to let these pieces play over and over. The sounds comfort the listener, cares fall away, one relaxes.
If it's experimentation you are looking for, look elsewhere. If it's sounds and music that can "soothe the savage beast", the charming collection that Florian Ross presents here is just the right tonic.  For more information, go to

Unrehurst: Volume 2 - Robert Hurst (Bebob Records) - Detroit Michigan-born bassist Hurst (Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr., Geri Allen) is featured here with his Houston, Texas, cohorts Robert Glasper (piano) and Chris "Daddy"  Dave (drums) in a program recorded live at Smoke in New York City in March of 2007. "Volume 2" was taped 7 years after its predecessor, a set that also featured Glasper plus drummer Damion Reid.
What one gets here seems like the second set of a real good night of music.  It's loose, easy, fun and, at times, charming. One can hear that these musicians are friends, they don't step on each other and they really enjoy a groove.  All but 1 of the 5 tracks are over 12 minutes yet there is enough variety to keep one's interest.  The set opens with Cole Porter's "I Love You", commencing with a short bass intro - when piano and drums enter, they ride Hurst's groove before a quick reading of the theme.  Then, it's back to the groove and Glasper's long, unfolding, solo.  In his own music, Glasper often melds hip-hop elements with bebop and other jazz styles - here, he channels his inner Herbie Hancock, taking the listener for a roller-coaster ride over Dave's explosive drum work and Hurst's "running" bass lines.
Glasper's "Truth Revealed" starts as a sweet medium-tempo ballad, with a handsome melody (and good counterpoint from the bassist) but builds in intensity through the piano solo. Hurst's solo is filled with long, rapid-fire lines that play against Dave's quiet cymbal work.
Thelonious Monk's "Monk's Dream" is fun, plenty of give-and-take, stops and starts, rhythmic shifts and that's just in the first 2 minutes.  When Dave and Hurst lock into the groove, Glasper goes off into a multi-directional solo that is pure stream-of-consciousness.  The bass solo also goes in various directions, at first playfully sparring with the drums then moving off into a melodic yet percussive set of riffs.  When the Trio reunites, they trade choruses with Dave and one expects the theme to return.  And, it does but in a series of variations that play off the melody and then the rhythm - there is even a short, impressionistic, coda as the music trails off.
If you're looking for a straight-ahead piano trio experience, "Unrehurst" is not really the place to go. But, if you want music that builds off tradition as well as friendship, capturing the experimentation and interplay that jazz can offer, this CD is a treat.  For more information, go to

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