Veteran pianist David Leonhardt has often improvised around classical melodies in a live format, and now he finally commits an entire disc to tunes by Debussy, Bach, Beethoven and others. Backed by his working trio, the pianist gets things started with Bach's "Prelude in C Major" alternating the tempo between andante and another more suitable tempo with a straight-ahead beat.
He also tackles Schubert's popular "Ave Maria," playing it straight without adding much to it. Bassist Matthew Parrish
and drummer Alvester Garnett
, however, give the tune a unique sound with their steady backbeat based around Garnett's accents. Erik Satie's "Gynmopedie No. 1" is one of the most popular melodies in the classical canon (having being used in countless movie soundtracks and TV commercials), but the trio manages to innovate by opening with a fluent bass solo from Parrish, who then cedes the spotlight to the bandleader, who plays the melody as written while adding a a few personal touches.
Certain melodies (such as Beethoven's "Adagio From Pathetique") do not seem suitable for jazz, and Leonhardt is clearly aware of that, adding just a few creative moments in between without changing the tune's general feel. However, in tunes like "Simple Gifts" and Bach's "Mazurka in G Minor," the trio lets the creativity flow as the melodies lend themselves well for more improvised moments such as Parris's beautiful solo on the latter.
Bach to The Blues is likely to please classical music jazz trio fans alike; the tunes are all highly recognizable, and the arrangements are respectful of what their composers might have had in mind had they been born during the 20th century. Somewhere, Mozart is certainly smiling.
Personnel: David Leonhardt: piano; Matthew Parrish: bass; Alvester Garnett: drums.