When pianist G.F. Mlely returned to the music scene in 2000, one might easily have wondered if, after a hiatus of nearly twenty years, he still had it. After all, he had quite a successful touring and recording career and a recording, Trio
, that was among the top ten jazz albums being played on US radio when personal circumstances caused him to bow out. How would he sound twenty years later? Asserting in no small way that he was back, Mlely released ReEntry
, a daring solo piano recording, proving that not only was his technical ability better than ever, but so was his imagination and creativity. ReEntry
consists of a number of standards, as well as some original compositions. While Mlely’s personally-developed harmonic language, called the “8-Tone Quarto-Modes Concept,” is not yet in evidence, he still manages to demonstrate a personal style. His attack is strong, his ideas audacious; he reinvents the Gershwin staple “It Ain’t Necessarily So” with a broken-up stride on the left hand that make it more aggressive than normally interpreted.
His playing exudes confidence and a sense that, as exploratory as he gets, he always knows where he is going. Nothing feels left to chance, yet the spirit of improvisation is strong; within the context of compositional structure Mlely takes the tunes to places that often surprise. Even pieces like “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” while always keeping the melody near the surface, take unexpected twists and turns. Mlely is one of the few pianists out there who can extend a solo piano interpretation to seven minutes and maintain interest throughout.
But for all his sense of invention, melodic diversions and ability to break up the rhythm while, all the while, implying a strong pulse, Mlely manages to keep things accessible. This is no “outside” exploration a la Cecil Taylor; this is a considered investigation into the melodic potential of each piece. Even on originals like “Never Quite Say,” with its lightning fast runs and slightly more abstruse changes, Mlely never loses sight of the core of the tune.
Since ReEntry , Mlely has issued two more albums, 88 Keys and Counting and his first group recording on over twenty years, the 2003 release A Little Night Waltz . But it is with ReEntry that Mlely established that he was back on the scene, ready to take no prisoners. It is an inventive and passionate album that deserves to expose Mlely to a broader audience.
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Personnel: G.F. Mlely (piano)