Yan Pevzner: Forward Motion (2008)
Born in Russia, and for several years a resident of New York City, pianist-composer Yan Pevzner is a highly educated artist and teacher who launched his recording career with his 2003 solo debut State of Mind. He's performed with a who's-who of jazz artists, as well as large orchestra gigs with Hollywood film scoring legend Patrick Williams. On his superb 2008 outing, Forward Motion, Pevzner attains a fruitful medium by producing top-flight compositions that are designed with a sense of controlled vibrancy and fluent trajectories.
Pevzner employs a strong band, featuring a wonderful foil in Sam Newsome's breezy soprano sax phrasings over the top. A good portion of these works offer split-second shifts in momentum amid odd-metered unison charts. But the pianist doesn't get mired in a consortium of technicalities and dissonant harmonic gyrations, which seem to be attributes of some young and well-schooled jazz artists. On the flip side, Pevzner fuses memorable melodies with resplendent soloing jaunts, while purveying an open-air sound.
On "The Curtain Is Down," Pevzner leads the charge via a rapidly-paced swing vamp, where he injects bluesy trills and lower register block chords into the mix, countered by drummer Tony Moreno's sweeping tom rolls. During the high-impact movements, the pianist sprinkles radiant harmonic chord clusters and brisk single-note leads within various passages, as he trades buoyant fours with Newsome. Moreover, bassist Martin Wind lays out a pliant bottom-end, here and throughout.
The piece titled "Watching Me Leave" is a gentle ballad that casts notions of optimism, and elicits imagery of perhaps overcoming a traumatic event. Yet matters heat up during the bridge, which is a pattern that follows suit with the razor-sharp swing groove heard on the following piece, "Quiet Force."
Pevzner doesn't necessarily outline a new direction in modern jazz. Essentially, he transmits a broad and rather cunning musical vista that seemingly incorporates the best of numerous jazz-based components. More importantly, he bridges the gap between the cerebral spectrum while spawning a highly listenable and quite endearing program that intimates alluring characteristics.
Track Listing: West South (part 1); West South (part 2); The Curtain Is Down; Forward Motion; Back Then; Watching Me Leave; Quiet Force; Twilight; Grace.
Personnel: Yan Pevzner: piano; Sam Newsome: soprano saxophone; Martin Wind: acoustic & electric bass; Tony Moreno: drums.