How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.
Sometimes we're just looking to hear a good, fun jazz album. One Hundred Dreams Ago is it. Ben Waltzer on piano, Gerald Cleaver on drums, and Matt Penman on bass all play with a fearless ferocity. But the nine tracks don't sound wild, or untamed, more confidently swinging. There's not a hint of timidity. And there's nothing nostalgic or morose about it. Even on "Hymn and the Blues Up High," where Waltzer remembers a friend who died in the World Trade Center, it's the bond of a relationship, the spirit of a good friend and the appreciation of life that comes out in the song. In fact, each tune seems like a celebration. Even when the trio quiets it down and plays slowly, you know they're smiling.
The opening track, "Our Rhythm," is a proper introduction. Each player throws tons of energy into his playing that comes off as unified ebullience, as if proclaiming, "this is who we are, and we are a force to contend with." They seem to have a truly honest relationship with each other, passing solos like a baton tossed into the air on Billy Strayhorn's "U.M.M.G," or teasing each other with time like on "Hymn and the Blues Up High," when Waltzer and Cleaver simmer just behind Penman's bass line. The result is a cool, swaggering sound.
Waltzer's compositions hold strong to the tradition of jazz with beguiling melodies and garrulous rhythms. Often foraying into tenderness as on "Smeenus Smiles," he always maintains a solid concept of the whole, never letting it get swallowed up in emotional slinks.
An easy playfulness skims through most of the tracks, but varying textures and images do surface. Cleaver messes with time and timbre on "Soundcheck Blues," creating an interesting terrain of innumerable consistencies. Waltzer's gorgeous take on "I'm Through With Love" sounds gently flirtatious. The pianist convincingly rolls out each line of the melody, tinkling into the upper registers, and making it glisten.
Track Listing: 1 Our Rhythm 5:35
2 Smeenus Smiles 8:52
3 Time and I 6:22
4 Hymn and Blues Up High 7:44
5 U.M.M.G. 9:18
6 Soundcheck Blues 6:34
7 I'm Through With Love 9:15
8 The More I See You 7:01
9 One Hundred Dreams Ago 3:38
Personnel: Gerald Cleaver: Drums;
Matt Penman: Bass;
Ben Waltzer: Piano.