Matt Ray: Lost in New York (2007)
It takes courage to include the word "lost in a CD titlesome might draw a parallel between title and content. In this case, though, the parallel is both apt and positive. As pianist Matt Ray's liner notes imply and his performance illustrates, he is lost in the best possible sense: totally immersed in the moment and the music.
From the first notes of Wayne Shorter's "Lost the album's opening cutthere is significant interplay among Ray, bassist Danton Boller and drummer Quincy Davis. This is a true trio, not two guys comping behind a soloist, waiting their turn. The performance is a prime example of jazz as conversation. Each solo is well expressed, but paying attention to the accompanying commentary is also rewarding.
Ray's first album, We Got It (Cap, 2001), was perhaps unfairly tagged as a soul-jazz album, and he returns to this fertile ground with straightforward and lyrical readings of Stevie Wonder's "Where Were You When I Needed You? and Curtis Mayfield's "The Makings of You. Ray's is the dominant voice on these cuts and discovers interesting jazz in good-to-great pop.
Tenor sax giants provide inspiration for the majority of covers this time around. A pair of tunes from the underrated Coltrane's Sound (Atlantic, 1960) stand as the centerpiece of the album: the gorgeous "Central Park West, and a jaunty reading of "Satellite. Besides these and Shorter's leadoff, there is the briskly energetic, "Pent-Up House, by Sonny Rollins and a concise but passionate version of Joe Henderson's "Serenity. Again, each player leaves good space in his solo for his partners to converse, adding complexity to the performances.
Ray's three originals fit agreeably with the covers. "El Bosque is a meditative respite between Wonder and Rollins. "Greene Street Blues is the most overtly swinging number on the album; you wouldn't be surprised to hear Pee Wee Russell or Sidney Bechet sliding in counter to Ray's lead. "Last Call on the Lower East Side, like its predecessor, evokes a place where Ray enjoys being lost.
Ray's website does not list Hank Jones as an influence, but he exhibits some of Jones' playfulness, and his instinct that the song should guide the technique rather than the reverse. This is a very good album by a leader and trio who should record more often.
Track Listing: Lost; Where Were You when I Needed You?; El Bosque; Pent-Up house; Central Park West; Satellite; The Makings of You; Serenity; Greene Street Blues; Last Call on the Lower East Side.
Personnel: Matt Ray: piano; Danton Boller: bass; Quincy Davis: drums.