Pianist G.F. Mlely was starting to make quite a name for himself in the 1980s, with a successful touring career and a recording, Trio, that was among the top ten jazz albums being played on US radio, when a series of personal circumstances caused him to drop out for nearly two decades. Returning to the scene with two solo piano outings, 2000’s Re-Entry and 2002’s 88 Keys and Counting , with the release of his first new trio recording in over twenty years, A Little Night Waltz , Mlely is, quite simply, back, and with a vengeance.
While he sits firmly in the mainstream jazz category, he has literally created his own harmonic language, called the “8-Tone Quarto-Modes Concept,” that looks at even the most common changes from a very different perspective, resulting in a more contemporary take. Mlely’s sound is uniquely his own; on a programme of seven original compositions, he demonstrates a style that may have, at one time, come from Evans and Tyner, but the references are now completely subsumed into his own personal approach.
Los Angeles-based bassist Bill Markus and percussionist Gene Stone know exactly what Mlely is talking about; they understand his style, navigating through some difficult waters and keeping up with a concept that, while tonal, never quite goes where one would expect.
There’s a predilection with the jazz waltz; from the brighter, up-tempo title track to the darker “Thornbird,” Mlely and the trio explore the different possibilities within that sub genre; Markus and Stone provide solid support throughout. On the up-tempo swinger, “It’s Not The End,” they both get to demonstrate their capabilities as soloists; Markus is lyrical, while Stone is a powerhouse.
While most of the session was actually recorded in 1993, the solo piece, “Invention 2 In The 8-Tone Quarto- Modes,” was recorded in 2003, and most clearly demonstrates the maturity and singularity of Mlely’s vision. With stunning chordal passages and staggering arpeggios, he works his way through the piece with astounding virtuosity.
A Little Night Waltz is an important new recording from a pianist who has already gained the attention of the critics; now it’s time for him to reach a broader listening audience, and this release is just the ticket.
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Personnel: G.F. Mlely (piano), Bill Markus (double-bass), Gene Stone (percussion)