By Ken Dryden
Jean-Michel Pilc emerged as one of the rising young European jazz pianists, recording a number of CDs on the Continent, though he had long since become a naturalized American. He makes his debut for a U.S. label with his live solo piano album Essential, a striking mix of fresh interpretations of widely recorded songs and his innovative originals. It would be interesting to imagine what Duke Ellington would say about Pilc's reworking of "Caravan," a playful mix of dramatic chords, uptempo lines, and hand-muting of strings without losing the essence of this timeless composition. He utilizes a disguised introduction to "Someday My Prince Will Come" that incorporates a childlike singing bassline with a piercing staccato chord in his right hand, though he transforms it into a musical daydream that ventures far from the expected route. Pilc's choppy setting of "Take the 'A' Train" also detours onto a new path, incorporating licks from earlier piano giants and adding tricks of his own. It is almost impossible not to laugh aloud hearing Pilc's comic twists in his deliberate arrangement of "Mack the Knife." Pilc has long established himself as a promising composer as well. His six movement "Etude" is a versatile suite that touches on many musical bases. "Essential" suggests a late-night set-closing blues, though the jagged, dark chords accompanying its warm melody quickly change that feeling. Pilc's "Sam" is a pretty ballad with just a touch of melancholy in its brief two minutes. Those who quickly bypass Jean-Michel Pilc's Essential, believing it to be a compilation of earlier recordings, will miss one of the gems of 21st century jazz piano.
Matija Dedic Trio
MD in NYC
By Dan McClenaghan
Pianist Matija Dedic's MD in NYC tiptoes into existence on a delicate rhythm, joined in short order by a sprinkling of crystalline notes in the melody, with a whisper of brushes and spare but assertive bass lines. "Her Name" is one of the pianist's five originals in the set, and has a wistful reverence that speaks, perhaps, to a yearning infatuation, bringing to mind the artistry of Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock.
The Croatian-born musician has created a superb piano trio outing, a pared down approach that he augments very adeptly with synthesizers. "Slawenskya," another original, features a subtle electric cool breeze undertone enhancing the harmony, leading into the brightly-swinging trio tune,"Update."
Hancock's much-covered "Maiden Voyage" has never been covered better. It is a spare and understated rendition from Dedic and his trio mates, with eerie hints of synthesizer washes huffing like wind blowing through the eaves, a sound leaning just over the edge of conscious perception. The longest tune of the set at just over ten minutes—with its deft trio interplay and a brief-but- marvelous bass solo—it is the CD's centerpiece and masterpiece.
Miles Davis's "Blue in Green" opens at a slow and deliberate pace, piano trio only, until Dedic brings a lush string arrangement into the mix, making a Kind of Blue (Columbia Records, 1959) "with strings" outing seem a very interesting potential project.
Dedic's "Cheekee Chicks" features a funky dance groove and electric piano; and Sting's "Fragile" is another trio affair, a floating six minutes of loveliness and trio cohesion, followed by the more stately and muscular Dedic-penned "Jungle Blues." Concluding the CD, Toby Gad's "If I Were a Boy," with it's whirring synthesizer orchestration, has the feel of a soundtrack to a movie with a pastoral backdrop.
MD in NYC introduces a very talented and versatile artist in Matija Dedic.
Her Name; Slawenskaya; Update; Maiden Voyage; Angst; Blue in Green; Cheekee Chicks; Fragile; Jungle Blues; If I Were a Boy.
Matija Dedic: piano, keyboards, Fender Rhodes; Vincente Archer: bass; Kendrick Scott: drums.
Aaron Goldberg and Guillermo Klein
By Raul D´Gama Rose
There might actually have been a universe called "Bienestan" and it may have existed for as long as Guillermo Klein. The rich sonic topography of this undiscovered place is just emerging. It is a place of oceans of sound, with energetic waves that make their rhythmic way to lap upon a shore that glistens with all manner of richly harmonized melodies. The very air on this universe is thick with reports of complex rhythms bounced across many interstellar regions from the Africa of earthly consciousness. These rhythms are gloriously intertwined with Latin ones that once swept ashore on the hot and golden Iberian coastline, many historic ages ago and were refined by velvet gentlemen as far removed as Madrid and Andalusia was from Paris and Milan. The operatic sweep of these rhythms somehow made it into the majesterium that is presided by Klein, with his sponge-like sensibility. The existence of Bienestan is as fortuitous as all of the music that comes from its presiding grace, Klein himself. Bienestan, the album, has been happily finished somewhere on earth, with the unbridled genius of pianist Aaron Goldberg and a cohort of other fine musicians.
This is a brooding, dense album, which is the reason why it is so unique and enjoyable, unlike many albums where the density of constantly changing rhythmic enchantment mingles with even denser harmonies. It is not hard to wrap the mind around these harmonies, but it certainly is amazing to note that these have been created by just two keyboards, an occasional saxophonist or two and a percussion colorist as wise beyond his years as Eric Harland. This is evident as much on the stunning recasting of Charlie Parker's "Moose The Mooche" as it is on the dark beauty of the magical and mysterious "Manhã de Carnaval." Of course Klein's arrangements are superb and mostly the reason why this album is destined to become a classic. Klein appears not only to have sensibility where a myriad of labyrinthine harmonies converge, but he and Goldberg seem to have found a way to navigate their way through the lush hinterland of such exquisite songs as "Burrito," "Human Feel" and of course the sublime "Implacable" and the languorous beauty of "Airport Fugue." And if further reassurance of the musicians' ability to negotiate Klein's enigmatic modulation of the "three" and "four" rhythmic sequences is really required, there is always the two versions of "Manhã de Carnaval." Finally there are the moving colors that the sextet uses to interpret "Yellow Roses," which is wonderful because they so embellish the title's monochromaticism.
This is an impressive album, not least because it is fired up by the alternate brilliance of Aaron Goldberg, who has interpreted Klein's music on Bienestan with utter genius, indeed.
All The Things You Are; Implacable; Moose The Mooche; Burrito; Human Feel; Anita; Blues for Alice; Manhã de Carnaval (Black Orpheus); Airport Fugue; Manhã de Carnaval (Orfeo Negro); Yellow Roses; Impresion de Bienstar; Amtrak/All The Things You Are.
Aaron Goldberg: piano; Guillermo Klein: Fender Rhodes; Matt Penman: acoustic bass; Eric Harland: drums; Miguel Zenon: alto saxophone (3, 5-7, 11); Chris Cheek: tenor saxophone (5, 6), soprano saxophone (11).
Piano Works X: A Tribute To Fabrizio De André
By John Fordham
Italy's Danilo Rea (an accompanist on occasion to Chet Baker and Lee Konitz, among others, who's sometimes compared to local piano giants Stefano Bollani and Enrico Pieranunzi) is the kind of pianist who seems to believe that improv needs singable melodies set in orderly structures. He's also been active in Italian pop, and this unaccompanied concert from Bavaria's Schloss Elmau last January is dedicated to the radical singer and songwriter-poet Fabrizio de Andrè, who died in 1999. All the pieces here are variations on De Andrè's affecting melodies, save for two Rea originals, and a rapt and romantic account of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez. Rea is an ornate and showy performer, whose long expositions can leave you feeling as if you're trapped by a non-stop talker, but amid these whirling waltzes, jaunty swingers, movie-epic ballads and Corea and Jarrett inflections (Ave Maria has a distinctly Köln Concert atmosphere), there's an evangelical virtuosity that's undeniably gripping.
The Touch Of Your Lips: Tribute To Bill Evans
By System Records
Manuel Rocheman is one of France’s finest jazz pianists and his latest CD honours the hugely influential Bill Evans who passed away in 1980. However it’s clear from the outset of this recording that Rocheman is never seeking to imitate and instead aims to evoke all the music that Evans has inspired within him.
Bill Evans’ favoured context was, of course, the piano trio where interaction with the rhythm section was paramount. It’s fitting, therefore, that Rocheman is joined by two very creative musicians on this recording - bassist Mathias Allamane and drummer Matthieu Chazarenc. Like Evans, Rocheman places a great deal of value on the interpretation of standards and performs a highly personal take on the title track, a tune immortalized by his predecessor. Also included are two originals by Evans, Johnny Mandel’s “Theme from M.A.S.H.” (from Evans’ “You Must Believe in Spring” album) and four new compositions from Rocheman himself.
By C. Michael Bailey
The French Naive record label, long known for its fine releases of classical music—particularly its ongoing Vivaldi Opera project—has initiated a jazz stream, highlighting French jazz talent, including pianist Manuel Rocheman's The Touch of Your Lips: Tribute to Bill Evans. It is somehow fitting that a tribute to America's last great pioneer in jazz piano (apologies toCecil Taylor) comes from the land of the Impressionists.Bill Evans, more than any other pianist—not John Lewis, notJacques Loussier, not even the great Art Tatum—elevated jazz piano to a chamber art. His music, particularly that performed close to his 1980 death, was characterized by a fragile intensity, a phenomenon so friable, that the pianist's performance threatened to dissolve at any moment, like a smoke ring in the wind.
Rocheman, in his tribute, adds a quickening support to Evans' art like scaffolding buttressing an ancient sculpture that better allows for the ethereal to gain substance, to be seen and heard. Few pianists could pull off the high-wire act that was Bill Evans, and Rocheman does not even attempt to. Instead, he provides definition, darkening the lines of Evans' thought, making a clearer picture. The Johnny Mandel melody of "Suicide is Painless," from the 1970 movie M*A*S*H, demonstrates Evans' visions in its Red Garland block chords and modern bass-drums support. Here, Rocheman solos confidently, with tart punctuation and comment on the higher harmony of the composition.
The Evans' composition "We Will Meet Again" from the pianist's last studio recording of the same title (Warner Brothers, 1979), offers the scent of Evans' 1961 Village Vanguard trio inMathias Allamane's bass solo. Allamane surfaces from the impressionistic somnolence with a musing, flat in tone that takes off on the perpendicular to Rochemann's direction. This is the most potent presence of the spirit of Scott LaFaro on the disc, one that is gratefully not overplayed. "Daniel's Waltz" lilts with a swinging ferocity that does not draw attention abruptly; rather, revealing itself like an intellectual connection being made, when things become clearer.
Bill Evans is justly a hard musical target. His influence is like an apparition barely seen but registered nevertheless. Rocheman and his trio turn up the musical sensitivity on Evans so that he may been seen with greater clarity without losing any of the mystery that was that pianist's certain specialty.
M.A.S.H; Send in the Clowns; We Will Meet Again; Daniel's Waltz; For Sandra; Only Child; Rhythm Changes; The Touch of Your Lips; La Valse Des Chipirons; Liebeslied.
Manuel rocheman: piano; Mathias Allamane: bass; Matthieu Chasarenc: drums.