Henry Hey: Watershed (2003)
The piano trio format remains an enduring tradition in jazz, with relatively new faces like Caine, Meldhau, Iverson, Taborn, Colligan, Svennsson and Pilc picking up the evolutionary gauntlet thrown down by the Rushmore-deserving progenitors of the art form: McCoy, Herbie, Keith and Bill. Casting one's hook into this heady tributary of the jazz stream is a daunting task considering the latitude of its Watershed. Taking the format to new places necessitates a skill set on the part of the pianist as challenging as any in jazz.
It also takes a big set of well-something else, and Henry Hey's obviously got 'em. See, Henry has his own requirements for his brand of the trio - fundamentals that, in this setting, ultimately rest on his shoulders. Setting orchestral textures, the movement of inside lines, the ostinato and emphasis on melody as his goals, he's come out on the other end with a cerebrally kinetic set carving out his place in the panorama of the tradition.
Let's start "Not In So Many Words," shall we? Nice title, because it in fact sums up the reason these guys showed up in your headphones today! Did they know they were saving the best for last? Surely the set's most radio-friendly cut, the song is the ostinato and it's a concept pulled off here to grooving, head-bobbing inducing effect. In fact, the piano melody sounds like it's completely overdubbed over the sequencer-like, midrange left hand here- tough to figure how Hey pulls off the right hand part while keeping the propulsion pumping.
The answer lies in the syncopated, timed-just-right bomb-dropping and life-size sound of acoustic bassist John Hebert, a valuable asset throughout. Evidence that the interaction between piano and bass makes this groove happen is that drummer Jochen Rueckert, a chops-busting, technically skilled drummer who, generally speaking, works his butt off on this disc, has little to do but keep time on this one. After a lyrical let up, the piano ostinato figure drops out, but the bass line remains constant under Hey's extemporization, wherein he reinvents, refines, replaces, repairs, reworks and reticulates the ostinato into a solo full of movement and harmonic layersnicely done!
The band then plugs into an extension of the previously referenced "lyrical let up," using the same notes with way more energy, giving Rueckert the jumping off point for a surprising solo over his own brand of left-hand ostinato. This one's a companion in conception to the opener, "Motion View," which unfolds in a bit more complex fashion.
Compositionally, it's evident that Hey has a strong idea of what he wants the overall shape or drama for the tune to be before he actually writes the music or folds ideas into arrangements. While kineticism and percussiveness are defining attributes, this doesn't mean lyricism takes a back seat. "Nem Um Talvez," an rarely read gem from the Hermeto Pascoal songbook, gets a deservedly sanctified reading. "Glenmore Story" begins with a neo-classical sequence, then segues to lyrical motion,evoking a modern-day spin on Vince Guaraldi before getting roughed up in the bass range. Similarly, the solo begins with expressive space before ratcheting up the alacrity in the right hand, then adding close-voiced, dense waves of harmony with the left.
To the connoisseur of the genre I say this: Hey! Henry's a young pianist of refined technique and sensibility. He's astutely taken some basic ideas for the format that play to his strengths and expanded upon them to craft a debut that more than portends, but plunges him smack dab into, his future as an elite member of the modern-day fraternity of the piano trio.
For more information, visit HenryHey.com.
Track Listing: 1. Motion View, 2. Sandscape, 3. Get Your Goat On, 4. Glenmore Story, 5. Nem Um Talvez, 6. Cobalt, 7. Knurl, 8. Laurito, 9. Not In So Many Words
Personnel: Henry Hey-piano, John Hebert-bass, Jochen Rueckert-drums