This marvelous debut recording reveals David Dzubinski as one of the most uniquely creative, introspective pianists on the contemporary Pennsylvania scene. Like many of the best post-boppers, he displays an encyclopedic knowledge of jazz styles without sounding too derivative. One of his more prominent influences is Dave Burrell, who co-produced this disc with Dzubinski's wife, vocalist Kayl' Brecher. This is a fascinating album that reveals new layers and textures with each successive spin.
At times, especially on the opening Monk medley, Dzubinski's unhurried pace is reminiscent of Misha Mengelberg. On the deft blending of "Straight No Chaser" (initially played with the right hand) and "Blue Monk" (left hand), the pianist takes his time exploring the special nuances of Monk's gems. "Well You Needn't" is quicker and more percussive, rich with humor and surprises. It's simply marvelous the way he maintains a steady walking bass line while practically reassembling the high end of the keyboard. On three short visits to the neighborhood of "Blue Moon" he dismantles the melody each time to analyze the bare bones of the standard. Several other standards are also tackled: "A Night in Tunisia" simmers with dark urgency, while a snail's-pace "All the Things You Are" plumbs new emotional territory. Dzubinski even manages a truly original assay of Brubeck's "The Duke," a tune that can be hard to remold from its original conception.
Dzubinski's original compositions merit special attention. "A Little Demon - A Little Dance" flashes with fiery Spanish passion without emulating Chick Corea's usual style, as many pianists are wont. The lovely, understated "Spanish Kay" takes a different tack on the Iberian inspiration. From the subtly funky sound of it, "Gene Pullen" presumably honors Gene Harris and Don Pullen with inimitable flare. "With Open Eyes" is an uplifting tune recalling Keith Jarrett, one of the many highlights here.
Kayl' Brecher is one of Philly's finest, most undersung vocalists, as original an interpreter of song as her husband. The spouses team up here on two tracks. On a captivatingly dusky "Autumn Leaves," augmented by Edgardo Cintron's percussion, Brecher bends and stretches the lyrics in the manner of a fine jazz poet. "Sunny Side" bubbles with giddy freshness as the pair tussle and spar. Delightful.
While one should use real discernment in labeling an artist as "one to watch" or a "rising star," Dzubinski more than earns those plaudits. His is a truly fresh voice, straddling the fickle fence between innovation and tradition, and much more should be heard from him in the future. Highly recommended.
Personnel: David Dzubinski, piano; Kayl? Brecher, vocals (4,10); Edgardo Cintron, percussion (4).