How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Pianist John Eaton takes on Gershwin and Arlen standards on this live recording, serving up an hour of tender, contemplative moments. Eaton's style occupies a fairly narrow range from introspective to cautiously exploratory. Even usually upbeat tunes like "I Got Rhythm" receive the soft and quiet treatment. On this and other pieces, Eaton hesitates to stray from the restrained mood characterizing the rest of the disc. Much of the music is legato; Eaton makes regular and unremitting use of the pedal to smoothen out the sound. He provides lush harmonies, often by use of arpeggiated bass accompaniment, which clearly communicate chordal information but rarely add any unexpected twists or deviation from the formal structure. Most of the time the music swings, but it's more the canter of Bill Evans than the gallop of Wynton Kelly.
On "One For My Baby," Eaton lends gritty vocals to the performance, consistent with his jaunty, bluesy piano playing. The beautiful sound quality on this disc reflects the acoustics of the hall and the fine Steinway instrument at his disposal. Eaton certainly has a handle on the idiosyncratic melodies and harmonies of his two musical heroes, but he spends so much time exploring quiet and sensitive moments that Live At Steinway Hall rapidly becomes unremittently languid and dull. For certain listeners, this ultra-understated, undeviatingly introspective approach may provide quiet listening satisfaction, but I'd rather listen to something with a little more punch and pizzazz.
Track Listing: Let's Fall In Love; For You , For Me, Forever More; Willow Weep For Me; That Old Black Magic; A Foggy Day (In London Town); One For My Baby; Love Walked In; My Shining Hour; S'Wonderful; When The Sun Comes Out; I Got Rhythm; Can't We Be Friends; Wizard of Oz Medley; Paper Moon; I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues; Oh! Lady Be Good; I'll Build A Stairway To Paradise; Somebody Loves Me.