You could call Pamela Hines a mainstream pianist, but that word "mainstream" suggests a limiting category and might draw a rather static map and restrict your expectations. What's the old rule of semantics? The map is not the territory. Or how about: the category is not the sound.
While Hines, on this (mostly) trio outing, fits into the mainstream category, she freshens up the approach and makes it sound as vital and boundary-stretching today as Bill Evans did throughout his career.
The pianist is joined on Return by bassist John Lockwood and drummer Bob Gullotti, the team that made their previous disc, Drop 2 (Spice Rack, 2006), such a success. This is piano trio in the Bill Evans mode: interactive and democratic, plying its seamless teamwork through a set of classic tunes that haven't been over-worked in the jazz canon: the tender and indescribably lovely "I'm Through With Love" (Kahn/Malneck/Livingston), Cedar Walton's "Ojos de Rojo, Rodger and Hart's "My Heart Stood Still."
Hines' style is characterized by complex harmonies and an often zingy, lyrical melodicism, and a deft touch with dynamics that gives new breath to the non-originals on the disc. But Hines is also a prolific and skilled composer, slipping in three tunes of her own"Return," "Very," and "Ward One"that rise above the covers.
The highlight on Drop 2 was the trio's take on The Beatles' "I Will," one of Paul McCartney's prettiest melodiesand a seemingly unlikely vehicle for a jazz outing. The highlights on Return are any one of the Hines originals, two of whichthe title tune and "Very"feature tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi, who now seems to be getting more well-deserved recognition after the release of his Tenorist (Savant Records, 2007). The Hines trio and "The Tenorist" are a magical pairing, with Bergonzi tearing into the Hines tunes and giving the sound more of an edge, more of a sense of the unexpected coming at you. And whether it's the saxophonist fitting into the trio's groove or vice-versa is anybody's guess; but bottom line, it's a great quartet that deserves a full CD's worth of sound.
With Return Pamela Hines soars into the territory of the top piano trios.
Track Listing: Ojos de Rojo; My Heart Stood Still; Return; I'm Through With Love; Displacement; Very; Comrad Conrad; My Heart Stood Still (Alternate); Ward One.
Personnel: Pamela Hines: piano; John Lockwood: bass; Bob Gullotti: drums; Jery Bergonzi: tenor saxophone (3, 6).