At 26, with two Concord CDs and numerous sideman recordings behind him, Eigsti has finally made the artistic statement he's intended since his career began at the age of 11. Raised on the American songbook, and indoctrinated early into concerns about the continued viability of jazz, Eigsti has always wanted to create new audiences by embracing the favorite material of the iPod generation. In his previous CDs he has covered Björk and The Gels, as well as recording his own "Fallback Plan Suite," in three movements, on Let it Come to You (Concord, 2008).
With Daylight at Midnight, Eigsti goes even further, not only interpreting contemporary artists like Coldplay, Rufus Wainwright, MuteMath and Imogen Heap, but featuring a vocalist for the first time: the transcendentally pure and soulful Becca Stevens,, with whom he wrote two of the songs. He also plays with the instrumentation—adding Fender Rhodes, Rhodes PianoBass, electric piano and Melliotron samples—and mixes the terrific trio tracks (with bassist Harash Rhagavan and drummer Eric Harland) with a duo featuring long-time colleague and friend, the wonderful guitarist Julian Lage.
Eigsti's powerful technique always informs his playing, but on this recording the spotlight is on his musical range. Especially notable is the one solo track ("Secreto"), which is simple and elegant, yet deeply moving—a difficult combination for players of any age. For the rest, however unfamiliar Eigsti's selections may be to a jazz audience, his love for melody and his deep and expanding artistry are always evident. The side effect of introducing jazz to a younger audience is to introduce the, well, more mature audience to the newer material. It works so beautifully both ways that Daylight at Midnight may finally make Taylor Eigsti as widely-known as he deserves to be, as consummate player, composer, and now songwriter and ambassador as well. Track Listing:
Daylight; Magnolia; The Art Teacher; The Water; Pink Moon; Little Bird; Secreto; Chaos; Between the Bars; Speaking Song; Midnight After Noon. Personnel:
Taylor Eigsti: piano, rhythm piano, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer electric piano, Melliotron samples; Harish Raghavan: acoustic and electric bass; Eric Harland: drums; Julian Lage: guitars; Becca Stevens: vocals.
Marcin Wasilewski Trio Faithful
by Greg Simmons The Marcin Wasilewski Trio's Faithful makes its entry as one of the better albums of 2011 to date, with a selection of original titles that are melodic, highly sophisticated and thoroughly enjoyable. The piano trio—piano, bass and drums—is one of jazz's cornerstone ensembles. As such—and with perhaps thousands of albums recorded in this instrumental combination—the standards of excellence are very high. There is no reason to ever listen to a mediocre piano trio record, because surely there is a truly outstanding one close at hand. To the extent that an entry into this category needs to excel to stand out and be heard, Faithful will surely find an audience. Pianist m: Marcin Wasilewski piano with a delicate hand and an almost vocal melodic quality. He eschews pyrotechnic arpeggios in favor of a balanced, chord-driven aesthetic. When he does solo, he works with a sleek fluidity that is integrated with the music, rather than floating over it. His performance is very satisfying to hear. Bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz and drummer Michal Miskiewicz provide a firm rhythmic foundation for the music, adding interest with imaginative playing throughout. They are not on this date to simply provide a beat. "Big Foot" opens with the piano and bass doubling the intro, before the piano recedes to allow the bass to make a statement. Even so, the instruments are blended, with the piano close at hand. It's a device that lets the complete arrangement make forward progress while allowing the individuals a bit of spotlight. The track also features some truly inventive drumming, notably incorporating consistent use of toms, snare, cymbals and kick drum, but with a strikingly well-built, light-touch articulation that compliments the song to a tee. The slower titles, including the title track, are lush without being florid, demonstrating gracefully lean compositions that still incorporate the full range and force of the instruments at hand. On "Ballad Of The Sad Young Men," Wasilewski sticks with a two-handed delivery, using the bass weight of the left hand to comp the melody of the right. Meanwhile, the drums, played with brushes, continue to develop a range of sounds and effects. Not satisfied to simply swirl his brushes on the heads, Miskiewicz taps the sides of his cymbals and thwacks the rims to ensure an engaging performance on what could easily have been a drummer's dead end. Of course, being on the ECM label, a high level of sonic excellence is to be expected. Every album should capture instruments this well, and with this level of spaciousness.
This trio has been playing together in various iterations for over two decades and it shows, with the kind of sympathetic, telepathic interplay between the musicians that can only be mastered over time. With Faithful, Marcin Wasilewsi Trio present a well-crafted, engaging, and simply beautiful album.
Track Listing: An den kleinen Radioapparat; Night Train To You; Faithful; Mosaic; Balad Of The Sad Young Men; Oz Guizos; Song For Swirek; Woke Up In The Desert; Big Foot; Lugano Lake.
Personnel: Marcin Wasilewski: piano; Slawomir Kurkiewicz: double-bass; Michal Miskiewicz: drums
Alone At The Village Vanguard
By Dan McClenaghan
Pianist Fred Hersch almost cashed out back in 2008, when he fell ill with AIDs-related complications and spent seven weeks in a coma. The recovery was arduous, the resumption of his wide-ranging and top-level musical artistry uncertain--an uncertainty erased without a trace by Whirl (Palmetto Records, 2010), a trio set so assured, vibrant and beautiful that it would surely show up in any knowing top ten list of the best piano trio sets of the new millennium's first decade.
There was a subtle change in Hersch's sound, post illness. It's what Hersch's fellow pianist, Jessica Williams (who has suffered her own health problems), calls “illness as a teacher,” a focusing of intent and approach from the washing away of the peripheral and unimportant.
Alone at the Vanguard is Hersch's solo piano offering, recorded on the last night of a six-night stand at the hallowed New York club where innumerable jazz greats have held court and recorded performances, resulting in classic albums. Hersch opens his set on a shimmering introduction to “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” an old American Songbook jewel that gets buffed up often. Hersch has what it takes to ignore the “never open with a ballad” advice: a supple and exquisitely-refined touch; a sharp focus on the melody; a deep sense of classical harmony; and a magical ability to get inside the tune and make it his own. Hersch's sound here has a uncommon fragility/strength dynamic, and it is serious and cerebral, with an opposing simplicity buoyed by a rich complexity, born of a lifetime's immersion in the music.
On this nine-tune set, Hersch offers up four masterful originals: “Down Home,” dedicated to guitarist Bill Frisell, has a jaunty, fun, light-stepping feel; “Echos” is an inward journey, hopeful and lushly harmonic; “Lee's Dream,” for alto saxophone legend Lee Konitz, has a sunny, sparkling, playful vibe; and “Pastorale,” dedicated to Robert Schumann, draws on Hersch's classical background.
Hersch gives Jacob de Bandolim's “Doce de Coco” a sense of frisky, devil-may-care grace, and he slows down the standard “Memories of You” and turns it into a ruminative prayer.
Almost all jazz pianists like to get lost inside the idiosyncratic tunes of Thelonious Monk, and Fred Hersch is no exception, but few do it as well. His study of Monk's “Work” sounds like joyous play, full of very erudite Hersch-ian turns, fun and at the same time stately, a closer that demanded an encore: Sonny Rollins' “Doxy.” Hersch delivers that tune at a measured pace, drawing the sound into a timeless and bluesy wee hours mood, a majestic wrap-up of an exceptional night of music at the Village Vanguard.
Track Listing: In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning; Down Home; Echoes; Lee's Dream; Pastorale; Doce de Coco; Memories of You; Work; Encore: Doxy.
Personnel: Fred Hersch: piano.
Carol Fredette Everything In Time
by Michael G. Nastos
Carol Fredette has been singing in the club and cabaret circles of New York City for many years, her unpretentious style appreciated by all who work with her and those who patronize her regular haunts. She's clearly a big fan of the Brazilian tunes which dominate this CD, with music director and bassist David Finck providing arrangements for such excellent players as pianists Helio Alves and Dario Eskenazi, drummer Adriano Santos and percussionist Mauro Refosco. A two-man horn section with tenor saxophonist Bob Malach and trumpeter Barry Danielian play a strong support role, as Fredette sings this collection of longtime favorites, movie themes, songs of love and regret reflecting the personal ups and downs of her life. Fredette vocalizes in a controlled range, not pushing the envelope too much nor straining for high notes, and is up in the production mix. She's mature and comfortable in the lower registers of her instrument without sounding forced, catty, or phony on a sexual level. Samba is the main rhythm used, whether on Bob Dorough's curious love inquisition "Without Rhyme or Reason," the understated treatment of the standard "Dream Dancing," the simple horn backed treatment on "Pieces of Dreams," or the upbeat take of a Kenny Loggins tune "Wait a Little While." Malach gets his licks in frequently, and he sounds great on his own or with the trio during the witty waltz version of "The Way You Look Tonight." Fredette has fun in falsetto quacking for "O Pato" with the lyrics of Jon Hendricks, and is in a campy mood for "A Fine Romance." At times maudlin emotionally, she's positively breathy during the reflective ballad "Last Night When We Were Young," talked further down by the great drumming of Victor Lewis. One of her more interesting choices "Love Thy Neighbor" was a hit for Bing Crosby, but here it's John Coltrane's arrangement, with saxophonist Aaron Heicke helping. Finck is always marvelous, and Fredette is lucky to have him by her side -- maybe a duet album would be a good idea. Apparently, according to the inner art work, Fredette's favorite time is ten o'clock, a.m. and p.m., indicative of this late night and "mid" morning approach to jazz singing.
Toots Thielemans European Quartet Live
by Ken Dryden
Even into his eighties, Toots Thielemans sets the standard for jazz harmonica. Although he no longer plays guitar or whistles, he remains a formidable force on his best-known instrument. This CD compiles performances from concerts between 2006 and 2008, all with his European quartet featuring pianist Karel Boehlee (who occasionally adds synthesizer), bassist Hein van de Geyn, and drummer Hans van Oosterhout, a sympathetic group that provides terrific backing and potent solos. Most of the songs have long been in the harmonica player's repertoire, though they still sound very fresh. Opening with a Gershwin medley, Thielemans kicks off with a laid-back "I Loves You, Porgy" before launching into a romp through "Summertime" that features the rhythm section vamping on "All Blues" in spots and making a humorous reference to Wayne Shorter's "Footprints." Toots' unaccompanied version of "'Round Midnight" is a masterpiece, full of twists, especially in the breathtaking introduction. The driving rendition of "On Green Dolphin Street" swings like mad, while the disc concludes with a wide-ranging exploration of his signature composition, "Bluesette," and a loping treatment of his pretty ballad "For My Lady." This live collection is a delightful addition to Toots Thielemans' vast discography.
Eldar Djangirov Three Stories
by Jeff Tamarkin
Eldar Djangirov, the jazz pianist who previously recorded under his first name only, has been receiving rave reviews since he began performing as a young child. Those kudos are justified -- even as a prodigy, Djangirov dazzled with his technique, earning comparisons to masters such as Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson. For one thing, his speed on the instrument is unreal, but he's never been solely about virtuosity -- never showoffy, Djangirov packs plenty of emotion into his music as well as chops. For this solo piano set, Djangirov has expanded his reach, including classical material and original compositions as well as several diverse covers spanning Great American Songbook standards to more traditional jazz repertoire and even a Dave Matthews tune. Djangirov's playing is, simply, flawless, yet he avoids sterility. Whether diving into Gershwin's "Embraceable You," Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee," or Bach's Prelude in C-sharp Major, Djangirov's interpretations are always personalized and never less than inviting. On Thelonious Monk's "In Walked Bud," played in 5/4 time, Djangirov's captures the angularity of the original but tosses in enough flamboyant flourish that one might mistake him for a bebop Liberace (in a positive, enjoyable way). His take on Jimmy Van Heusen's "Darn That Dream" is imbued with a dreamy, tinkling mystery, and the Chick Corea number that follows it, "Windows," is introspective and elegant. So too is the Matthews tune, "So Damn Lucky," which sways between a modified boogie and something more regal and expressive. Djangirov's original numbers -- highlighted by the expansive title track -- vary in mood and tone, striking a measured balance between the pianist's jazz side and his classical training. It all comes together magnificently in the set's tour de force, "Rhapsody in Blue," a breathtaking 15-minute Djangirov-arranged take on the iconic opus that surveys a wide range of stylings, dispositions, and tempos. It's a sonic tour well worth taking, the highlight of this recording that, more than any of his previous works, exposes Eldar Djangirov's massive abilities and singular approach.