Pianist Ben Waltzer is a multimedia force to be reckoned with. In addition to recording and gigging with his trio, Waltzer also finds the time to pen articles for the New York Times and has appeared as the musical director for fashion designer Issac Mizrahi's show on the Oxygen television network. Impressively, with all of these extracurricular pursuits, his new album, One Hundred Dreams Ago
, recorded with Gerald Cleaver on drums and Matt Penman on bass, is a highly satisfying affair that features both up-tempo swinging and reflective balladry.
Smeenus Smiles, composed by Waltzer, starts out with a lovely, lyrical piano introduction that recalls Bill Evans before it twists and turns, allowing for a murmuring solo by Penman, and culminates in a barrage of soulful chords from Waltzer. "I'm Through With Love receives a sensitive reading that acknowledges the resignation of the lyrics like a shrugged shoulder, yet it's also played delicately enough to admit that hope springs eternal. Penman's solo arrives like a good friend, sympathizing, but careful to advise that there are plenty of fish in the sea. Elsewhere, the band gets playful on the tumbledown melody of "Soundcheck Blues.
One Hundred Dreams Ago is a tasteful and sophisticated recording by a trio with a refined sense of interaction. Waltzer's own compositions hold up well even when placed alongside works by the likes of Ellington and Strayhorn. I'm curious to hear more from this trio.