marks the debut of German pianist Alexander Schimmeroth as a leader, and based on this album, he appears to be a budding individualist and a stimulating, thoughtful, even witty improviser.
Schimmeroth's approach can be deceptive. With his nuanced touch and manner of voicing chords, he sounds much like a capable, albeit not especially distinctive Bill Evans or Keith Jarrett acolyte. But there's that jabbing at a single note on "Bohemia After Dark," and the way he turns the beat around on "Rhythm," and Schimmeroth's approach begins to gel. He plays as if he is fascinated with Monk. To my ears, then, he is investigating Monk's ideas of phrasing, space, and thematic improvising. And by filtering these ideas through some Bill Evans devices and his own sensibilities, he is developing an approach that could have interesting, even important, implications for the future of jazz piano.
Hear, for example, Schimmeroth's excellent "It's You Or No One" solo. The light touch is there, along with firm, if understated swing, but Schimmeroth doesn't toss off fireworks. He airs out his phrases without losing momentum. On "Rhythm," his clever variant of rhythm changes, he plays peek-a-boo with the beat, turning it around, playing with it, then digging in for some cooking. This trio doesn't burn, actually, but it keeps things moving at a steady simmer.
At all times on Arrival, the trio is together, sounding like a band. Matt Penman is one of those gifted bassists who plays stimulating melodies while walking. The way his lines entwine with Schimmeroth's on the pianist's lovely waltz "Song" is especially intuitive and supportive. And drummer Jeff Ballard plays at his usual high level, in which everything he does feels right.
I don't think Alexander Schimmeroth has completed his growth as a musician. At times, his ideas don't flow and sound a bit disjointed. But if I'm right about what he's doing, and I hope I am, then he's going to be well worth watching.
Visit Alexander Schimmeroth on the web.
Personnel: Alexander Schimmeroth: piano; Matt Penman: bass; Jeff Ballard: drums.