Laszlo Gardony: Natural Instinct (2006)
What with Nils Petter Molvaer and the Ilhan Ersahin/Erik Truffaz duo twiddling the knobs, working hard to create a kind of trumpet electronica (not to mention the chaabi-electronica experiments of Bugge Wesseltoft and Michy Mano, and whatever it is that Jim Black is creating), modern plugged-in jazz is beginning to resemble a research lab. Those kinds of innovations are appreciated and to be encouraged, of course. All the same, it's nice to know that folks like Laszlo Gardony are keeping alive the (very) smart and (very) soulful acoustic piano trio tradition.
Gardony lies somewhere between the pianists (Monk, Andrew Hill) who seem to struggle against the instrument and those (Cole, Jarrett) whose musical ideas seem to flow unimpeded through the instrument. Like the latter group, Gardony's virtuosity is often unobtrusive, because his skill makes it sound easy; but like the latter group, he is capable of flights of arpeggiated fancy that seem to test the response time of the little-felt hammers inside the piano. Part of the enjoyment of listening to jazz piano has always been listening to the struggle of the first group, but another part is marvelling at the easy mastery of the second. On Natural Instinct, Gardony forges a middle path, combining the best of both schools.
The record's strong suit is surely the music's rhythmic complexity: the tension between the melodic line and drummer Yoron Israel's rhythm on the title track and "Waking Dreams" (a composition which channels the spirit of Herbie Nichols, another "middle path" pianist); or Gardony's soloing over the gentle bossa nova pulse underlying "Thinking of Stella" and "Someone.
Then again, another strength is the uniformly high quality of the compositions, a combination of pieces by Gardony and genuinely novel renditions of "Motherless Child" and Horace Silver's "Peace." And the record's triumph may be the pianist's harmonic complexityhe re-chords a passage of "Softly (As in a Morning Sunrise)" with just the same understated melancholy you might expect from Bill Evans.
If Natural Instinct is immediately appealing, it also continues to reveal its subtleties over time.
Track Listing: Natural Instinct; Revolution; Hidden Message; Motherless Child; Me and My Echo; Waking Dreams; Thinking of Stella; Peace; Softly (As in a Morning Sunrise); Someone; Us and the Night and the Music.
Personnel: Laszlo Gardony: piano; John Lockwood: bass; Yoron Israel: drums.
Record Label: Sunnyside Records