Alex Riel: Celebration (2002)
A thoughtfully planned, beautifully recorded, generously timed and wonderfully played trio session led by drummer Alex Riel and showcasing the prodigious talents of pianist Kenny Werner and bassist Jesper Lundgaard, so exhilarating that this reviewer was reminded from time to time of the classic Marian McPartland Hickory House trio from the '50s with bassist Bill Crow and drummer Joe Morello. After opening the concert date at the Copenhagen Jazz House with three spellbinding standards, Riel and Company elucidate Horace Silver's "Peace" and Thad Jones's "A Child Is Born," return to the tried-and-true American Songbook for two more masterpieces, and Werner wraps things up with an unaccompanied reading of J.S. Bach's "Siciliana." Werner, who doesn't habitually linger long in this groove, shows a lyrical side that is consistently radiant and charming, not to mention shrewd and resourceful. He really should do this more often. As for Riel and Lundgaard, they are twin pillars of tastefulness and talent, thoroughly at ease in every situation and always ready to maximize the trio's rhythmic impact. Listen, for example, to their understated mastery on "Green Dolphin Street" or anywhere else, for that matter. Like Werner, Lundgaard is a nimble and expressive soloist (his arco statement on "Bye Bye Blackbird" is especially engaging), and Riel has his shining moments as well, most notably on "Blackbird," "Autumn Leaves" and "You and the Night and the Music." But this is primarily a group effort, and one that seldom fails to please.
Contact: Stunt Records, 29 W. Maple Avenue, Bellmawr, NJ 08031 (phone 856-931-6441; fax 856-931-6445. www.sundance.dk
Track Listing: In Your Own Sweet Way; Bye Bye Blackbird; Autumn Leaves; Peace; A Child Is Born; On Green Dolphin Street; You and the Night and the Music; Siciliana (78:40).
Personnel: Alex Riel, drums; Kenny Werner, piano; Jesper Lundgaard, bass.