This is the promising debut of Willie Myette, a straight-ahead player based in Providence, Rhode Island. The Berklee- and Fred Hersch-trained pianist offers up seven standards, as well as Oscar Peterson’s "Hymn to Freedom" and an original waltz titled "Ella’s Song" — dedicated not to the first lady of song, but to Myette’s daughter. Joining Myette is the solid rhythm team of bassist Mark Carlsen and drummer Jack Menna, both of whom are at their best on an up-tempo version of "The Night We Called it a Day."
It’s clear by the end of the first track, "If I Should Lose You," that Myette has a way with slick, tightly arranged endings. His 5/4 treatment of "Be My Love" contains the disc’s most subtle and alluring moments. However, I would have counseled him against including "Hymn to Freedom," sung by the JazzKids children’s choir under his wife’s direction. Myette founded JazzKids, a jazz educational program for children, and his pride in the group is touching. But an objective listener would have to conclude that the singing isn’t CD-worthy and ends the program on a distracting note.
On the technical level, Myette’s single-note lines can be a little stiff at times. He’s harmonically adept but not particularly adventurous, which can be a liability when playing standard repertoire. The "bag" Myette has chosen puts him in the company of young players like Brad Mehldau, David Kikoski, and Jacky Terrasson, all of whom have worked wonders with the Great American Songbook. Myette will need to find ways to stand out among a very daunting crowd. But his debut shows that he has the potential to do so.