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Taking something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue, Jim Ridl accomplishes something uncommon on Blues Liberations that seems painfully obvious: He investigates the multitudinous forms of the blues. Now that may seem common because various piano masters like Jaki Byard, or even the under-appreciated pianist Ray Charles, have elevated the blues even higher as an art form from its earthy beginnings. Yet, Ridl's avenues of approach involve discrepant and sometimes contradictory routes as they converge at the ultimate source of the music.
Rather than extended themes, Ridl's blues variations establish a mood and then go on to the next assumption. That is, we can assume the blues to suggest languor and sadness. We can assume the blues to depict frenzy. We can assume the blues to attain majesty. We can assume the blues to sort out complexity for a resulting simplicity of result. None of Ridl's tracks is longer than nine minutes; the shortest is a little more than one minute; the average length is about three-and-a-half minutes.
So, "Aisle Five" is all frantic stop-and-start motion referring by indirection and arpeggios to the blues chord structure as the full-keyboarded scamper refers perhaps to discount store chaos. We've heard this mastery of the instrument before on Ridl's previous CD, "Five Minutes To Madness & Joy," wherein his percussive and expansive approach proves a personalized technique. In contrast to "Aisle Five," Ridl refers to the more often heard piano blues approach of walking tenths and "bent" dissonances on "Play, My Heart, In Blue" or "You Know How It Is." "Get After It Boogie" relies upon an irresistible, flowing left-hand phrase somewhat akin to the ¾ of "I Feel Pretty," but still off kilter with a less-predictable meter. "Clusters Last Stand" indeed wittily develops a blues through tonal clusters, sounding sometimes like Brubeck's broad chords that defy final resolution through suspended intervals.
Blues Liberations arose from Ridl's pure improvisations on the blues as he considered alternative approaches to a century-old form. Often without title, but rather involving concept, Ridl's tracks didn't assume titles until after they were recorded. The naming was less important than the musical curiosity revealed through the performance.
Blue Azzara; Just Left Of The Delta; Battle Of The Bands; Play, My Heart, In Blue; Aisle Five; La Dee, La Daa; Prelude And More; Get After It Boogie; Clusters Last Stand; Pass It On; Snake Dance; You Know How It Is; Rushzin' Berz Bluz; Uh Huh, That's Right; Blue Corn; Slinky; Descending On Io; A Lovely Impression; Blue Dot.