When I first heard pianist Danny Grissett a few years back and gave his debut album a favorable review, I anticipated that we'd be hearing more from the Los Angeles native. In fact, his star has been on the rise lately and he's a favorite accompanist to a growing body of leaders including a cache of trumpeters that includes Jim Rotondi, Jeremy Pelt, and Tom Harrell. Now, he returns to Criss Cross for his sophomore release and again fronts a trio that includes bassist Vicente Archer and drummer Kendrick Scott.
A sparkling pianist as well as a fine budding composer, Grissett ups the ante on this varied set of compositions. The clarion call of "Hopscotch" gets things underway with a bristling solo from Grissett and closes by trading fours with Scott, a superbly inventive drummer who has good ideas and a crisp sound and attack. Penned for Billy Higgins, "Waltz for Billy" is a moving threnody for the late drummer and it shows Grissett to be as convincing a balladeer as he is an up-tempo swinger.
"A New Beginning" and the title track are notable for establishing a mood before changing up the tempos to allow for some of Grissett's best playing of the date. The other originals include "Sunrise," a gentle number in a reflective mood, and "Git!," a funk-based tune that finds Grissett exploring Silverish roots with great results.
Three standards round out the program, with Wayne Shorter's "Toy Tune" being a sagacious choice for examination by this trio. The longest track on the date, "It Could Happen to You," evolves slowly during Grissett's rubato opening. Then, Scott sets a pulse with his brushes while the intensity builds. Talk about telling a story; these guys do so in abundance. Avoiding the urge to switch to double time, Grissett turns the lamp down low for "Never Let Me Go," contributing another of the album's fine ballad performances.
Grissett's ability to adapt to any situation and speak convincingly at any tempo is put on full display for Encounters. It's no wonder that he's become a first-call musician on the current scene.
Personnel: Danny Grissett: piano; Vicente Archer: bass; Kendrick Scott: drums.