Ms. Leib's arrangements might offend purists but truly breathes new life into "chestnuts" like "Someday My Prince Will Come" (Aaron Parks shines on his forceful solo while Stephens lets loose in his short spotlight) and "Willow Weep For Me" (the blend of Harland's drums and Barshay's percussion below Eigsti's Fender Rhodes is made for the dance floor). Ms Leib dips, swoons and soars through the fine re-imagining of "The Thrill Is Gone" (a smart blend of Los Angeles "cool" and Philly Soul.) "All I Have to Do is Dream" closes the program with a funky dance groove wrapped around Boudeleaux Bryant's plaintive melody and lyrics - it shouldn't really work but does so in a delightful manner.
One hears the influence of Tierney Sutton and Kate McGarry in the textures and rhythms of Sara Leib's music and arrangements. That's fine - they are her contemporaries. For every person who thinks they know "Night and Day" or ""It Might as Well Be Spring" inside and out, Ms. Leib recasts them in new threads yet never loses the intent of the originals. "Secret Love" may not melt your heart but this music will certainly make you smile and maybe even want to take a spin around the dance floor. For more information, go to www.saraleib.com.
You'll hear the drums "frame" the piece and how the Erik Satie-like melody moves through both the bass and piano. Blues chords mix with minimalistic splashes, creating a hypnotic slow groove that moves like ripples across a pond. And, this is a band that can "groove" - there's a bouncy beat to "Crab Canon", the kind that insinuates itself into your feet even as Ms. Gunnlaugs creates an impressionistic musical painting atop the throbbing bass. The sensuous bass line wrapping around the soft percussion on "Safe From the World" frees the pianist move the melody lines in subtle ways; these pieces have a "poetic" feel in that one can imagine that story behind them. A soulful aura pervades "Diamonds on the Inside", a piece from Ben Harper that shows the influence of Bob Dylan and The Band. The piano rides atop the melodic/propulsive bass line while the drums create an easy rhythm. The interplay of Ms. Gunnlaugs' gentle melodic phrases with the melodic counterpoint of Jónsson's full-toned bass on the opening minute of "Vicious World", the final track, is a gracious and enchanting dance.
Listen to "Long Pair Bond" under headphones at least once to really hear how wonderfully these 3 musicians navigate the music. Scott McLemore often plays so quietly you might think he's absent but listen; his supportive and color-filled percussion is quite fine. Þorgrímur Jónsson's fulsome bass work works well with the Ms. Gunnlaugs' lyrical piano lines. The beauty of this music rings true throughout the program, allowing the listener to relax and enjoy the flow. To find out more, go to www.sunnagunnlaugs.com.
Here's the Ben Harper tune, courtesy of Sunna Gunnlaugs and Bandcamp.
One can hears traces of Kurt Weill, Danish folk melodies, jazz, show tunes, contemporary classical music and so much more. Yet, don't waste time looking for antecedents in the melodies or improvisations. Just listen - music as pure as this needs your attention because of its subtle shifts and turns, the way Ellis's reeds move through the songs, either shadow the voice, doubling the piano or bass lines or any one of impressive solos (smart use of overdubbing on several pieces.) Dan Tepfer continues to impress with his finely etched solos, strong left hand work and ability to be percussive and melodic, often within the same phrase. Anne Mette Iversen is the sculptress of this creation, not only pushing the rhythm forward but also as a melodic force. "Poetry of Earth" is compelling modern music; don't expect to be "blown away" but to be seduced. For more information, go to annemetteiversen.com.
Here's a track from "Poetry..." courtesy of BJU Records and IODA Promonet: