Leslie Pintchik: So Glad to Be Here (2004)
Joining the ranks of the heavily-populated piano trio format is a risky proposition, especially within the mainstream because there are, quite simply, so many players out there mining the same space that unless one has something new to say or a radically new approach, one runs the very real risk of becoming just another one of many. And while So Glad to Be Here certainly positions pianist Leslie Pintchik in that dangerously occupied middle ground, she does have one trick up her sleeve that gives her trio added dimension, and that is percussionist Satoshi Takeishi.
Takeishi, more commonly heard in edgier surroundings including cellist Erik Friedlander's Topaz quartet and Anthony Braxton, brings his hybrid kit of traditional drums, unusual hand drums, cymbals and tuned gongs to Pintchik's trio, adding layers of colour to a group that, without his rich contribution, would perhaps be just another to emerge from the Bill Evans school. On "Hopperesque," one of seven Pintchik originals on the record, his use of tuned gongs and hand drums transforms the tune into a more deeply impressionistic affair. It is, in fact, his textural diversity on tunes like the samba-informed "Happy Dog" that elevate things beyond normal interpretation.
That's not to say that Pintchik isn't a capable pianist. With a graceful sense and delicate touch, her devotion to carefully developing melodic motifs rather than going for a more reckless approach makes the kudos she has received from Jim Hall, another player who favours thematic possibilities over pyrotechnics, no surprise at all. And she has, in bassist Scott Hardy, a sympathetic bassist who seems able to follow her every move, with a certain deftness that brings to mind Marc Johnson in his early days with Bill Evans.
While planted firmly in the mainstream, Pintchik and the trio approach material like her own "Mortal" with romantic implication, Takeishi's delicate cymbals, tuned gongs and fluttering hand drums creating a more flexible sense of time. And Pintchik sheds new light on "All the Things You Are" by relaxing the phrasing, creating an interesting sense of push-and-pull with Hardy, who keeps the time moving in a more straightforward way.
Pintchik may not move the earth with her playing or her concept, but there's enough variation in her style, which favours elegance and simplicity over a more outspoken approach, to make So Glad to Be Here a pleasant way to spend an hour. Having only decided to devote herself more fully to music in recent years, she'll need to hone her concept more fully in order to truly differentiate herself, but with So Glad to Be Here she has certainly made a good start.
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Track Listing: All the Things You Are; You Keep Coming Back Like a Song; Scamba; Hopperesque; Let's Get Lucky; Happy Dog; Mortal; Terse Tune; Luscious; SOmething Lost; We See
Personnel: Leslie Pintchik (piano), Scott Hardy (bass), Satoshi Takeishi (percussion)
Record Label: Ambient Records