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Phil Markowitz: Catalysis (2008)

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Phil Markowitz: Catalysis How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Veteran pianist Phil Markowitz has built an impressive resume over the last thirty years, performing with the likes of Chet Baker, Toots Thielemans, Bob Mintzer and David Liebman. On Catalysis, Markowitz leads the way with an outstanding acoustic trio featuring eight of his original compositons. The trio is rounded out by bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Adam Nussbaum.

The level of communication between the members of the trio is of the highest order. After the sneaky unison line on the opening "M.D.A.," supported by Nussbaum's brush-stroke bounce, Anderson performs his first of many clever bass solos, morphing into a swinging piano romp rather seamlessly. "For the Sake of..." begins with subdued, free-form ideas, before the lush, rather abstract harmonic sequence floats to the surface without a hint of hesitation.

Following the rhythmic intensity of the up-tempo "Breach," Anderson executes a floating, lyrical solo introduction to set up the contrapuntal "Whys and Wherefores"—a disc highlight. The five-note bass ostinato at the beginning of "Undercurrents" serves as the catalyst for a multi-layered piece full of unpredictable twists and turns.

On the lengthy ballad "Waiting," Markowitz unravels simplistic themes over a stark, emotive landscape. Nussbaum's quiet presence gives the tune inconspicuous coloration. The hard-swinging title track showcases impressive chops and a tight rhythmic bond between drums and bass. The session ends with "Fine," a light, straight-eighth groove with clustered piano voicings.

With no shortage of piano trio recordings being released, Catalysis is a stand-out; an inventive, collaborative effort.

Track Listing: M.D.A.; For the Sake of…; Breach; Whys and Wherefores; Undercurrents; Waiting; Catalysis; Fine.

Personnel: Phil Markowitz: piano; Jay Anderson: bass; Adam Nussbaum: drums.

Record Label: Sunnyside Records

Style: Modern Jazz


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