How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Jason Domnarski is obviously a talented pianist, so his new CD Notes From Underground is something of a letdown. He leads his trio through a set of cleverly titled tunes that touch various genres, but middling execution dampens the entire venture.
The problem is that most of the tunes are merely average. For example, the tune "Shape Shifters" is nicely played, on the level of what might be described as "chamber jazz," but undistinguished overall. Songs like "Big in Japan," with its overt pop pedigree, and "G Unit," a slick hybrid of jazz and urban contemporary funk, contain electronic effects that give them no additional depth. This isn't to say that Notes From Underground doesn't have inspired moments. The tender, gospel-colored "Tofu Queen" opens with what sounds like a bluesy version of the hook from the James Bond theme and its balanced electric and acoustic keyboards serve the spiritual theme well. The inventive arrangement of David Bowie's "Life on Mars" as a kind of minimalist lullaby reflects the teen angst defining the tune. And "Detune," with its faux minuet highlights, is a nicely mercurial piece.
Domnarski's playing is certainly sound and John Davis and Dave Mason are steady on bass and drums respectively, even if they don't really stand out (Davis' solo on "Life on Mars" is the only one by someone other than Domnarski). There's energy and creativity in the playing and production, but not enough to make Notes From Underground a truly exceptional work.
Track Listing: Shape Shifters; Big in Japan; Tofu Queen; G Unit; New Yorkistan; Life on Mars; Feedback; Detune.
Personnel: Jason Domnarski: piano; John Davis: bass; Dave Mason: drums.