How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
It seems at times as if the world is filled to the brim with technically adept young jazz playersmusicians whose speed and dexterity earn immediate respect. But technique is not all there is. Indeed, it's not even half. Heart and soul need to be in the music as well. At only 22 years of age Julian Waterfall Pollack is already extremely technically adeptbut he also invests his playing on Infinite Playground, his third album, with masses of heart and soul, adding an emotional intensity that lifts this music to uncommon heights.
Throughout the album the classically-trained Pollack displays a wonderfully mature approach to the music. The trioNoah Garabedian
on bass and Evan Hughes on drums attended high school with Pollackcomplement one another perfectly, each musician capable of playing rhythm or melody lines with flair. Garabedian and Hughes move readily between rhythmic stylesfrom hard-driving rhythm on the bop-inspired "Blue's Knot" to a controlled yet funky approach on "Blackberry," for examplewith confidence while Pollack can deliver strong rhythmic passages and delicate, evocative melody lines with equal skill.
The standards on Infinite Playground are all well-known, but none sounds stale or over-familiar here. Ray Noble
's "Cherokee" has acted as the basis of many jazz workouts, but Pollack's version still sounds fresh thanks to the pianist's percussive attack. Rogers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine" finds Pollack playing with real emotion over a slinky rhythm from Garabedian and Hughes, giving the piece an unusual tension. Lennon and McCartney's "And I Love Her" sounds as lovely as the Beatles' own version, and benefits from the inspired decision to give the opening verse to Garabedian's rich, rounded bass.
Pollack's "Lily" is a gorgeous, floating and romantic piece. Garabedian plays just enough to provide the tune's foundation, Hughes' drumming is soft and delicate, and Pollack's piano is warm and haunting. There's a touch of synthesizer on the tune, adding atmosphere without overwhelming the emotion of the acoustic instruments. "Death of Hamlet" is another feather-light tune, which echoes the work of Erik Satie
in its opening minutes. Both of these tunes epitomize Pollack's ability to play sparingly to great effectanother sign of his maturity and emotional connection with the music.
Infinite Playground is a beautiful recordingan assured and confident album of gorgeous tunes played with skill but also with a genuine connection to the music's heart and soul. Songs like "Lily" mark Pollack out as a talented composer as well as performer and the entire album is a joy from beginning to end.
Track Listing: Summertime; And I Love Her; Blue's Knot; Lily; Blackberry; Cherokee; My Funny Valentine; Forewarning; Death of Hamlet; Time After Time.