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Although his resume includes stints with major jazz figures such as Charles Mingus, Ella Fitzgerald, and Eric Dolphy, it wasn’t until the 1990s that pianist Richard Wyands had the opportunity to consistently record as a leader. A number of fine discs on the Criss Cross, SteepleChase and DIW labels displayed Wyands’ skills as a strong, imaginative soloist in the swing-to-bop mode, who does some of his best work in the classic trio format.
His latest release on Criss Cross, Half and Half, is no exception. In the company of bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington, who have worked with him on many other occasions, Wyands continues to explore selections from the American Popular Song, as well as two of his own compositions. Despite the fact that he’s been playing chestnuts like “Time After Time,” “Beautiful Friendship,” and “As Long As I Live,” for decades, Wyands has an uncanny ability to make us hear these melodies anew without resorting to attention grabbing tricks or gimmicks. “I’m Old Fashioned” is a good example of his modus operandi: that is, playing a relaxed mixture of single note lines and two handed chords; lacing his improvisations with snatches of the theme in unexpected places; and always expertly utilizing the support provided by the Washingtons.
Wyands gives “P.S. I Love You,” a stately, ballad treatment, creating new melodies that resound with both strength and tenderness. Billy Strayhorn’s “Daydream” is recreated as a brisk bossa nova, with some of the pianist’s most rhythmically inspired playing of the set, as he weaves lines on top of and around the bass and drums.
Besides their obvious skills in accompanying Wyands, both Peter and Kenny Washington also take interesting solo turns. In particular, I like Kenny’s extended solo on the title track, in which he offers a variety of deft strokes with brushes, and creates a stimulating dialogue between the snare and bass drums.
Track List:I’m Old Fashioned; Blues For Kosi; P.S. I Love You; Once I Loved; Half and Half; Beautiful Friendship; Daydream; Is That So?; Time After Time; As Long As I Live.