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Piperville: Return to the 90th Floor... (2006)

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Piperville: Return to the 90th Floor... How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Piperville is a trio, but not just any trio. To begin with, a threesome with Jeff Hamilton on drums and Lynn Seaton on bass is already two-thirds of the way to Jazz heaven. Add pianist Brian Piper, one of the busiest musicians in the Dallas, Texas, area, and the group is no less than one king-size step closer.

It's a pleasure simply to listen to all the wonderful things Hamilton does as accompanist, every stroke and accent precise and tasteful, sort of like watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel (or listening to Joe Morello in a trio setting). Best of all, Hamilton never shouts "hey, look at me!" or steps on anyone's toes. As for Seaton, he's a model of strength and consistency, seemingly incapable of striking a false note while making sure the rhythm never falters, regardless of tempo. Given that sort of bedrock, it's relatively easy for Piper to satisfy the melodic requirements, as he does with poise and resourcefulness.

The in-concert session, taped at the Maximedia sound stage in Farmers Branch, is consistently bright and entertaining, loose and swinging yet marked by the kind of subtle nuance and seamless interplay that one doesn't often hear these days. In other words, this is trio jazz the way it was meant to be played. The group opens with a time-tested standard (Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek ) and adds two others ("Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries, "There Is No Greater Love ) to originals by Piper ("Carlene ) and bassist John Adams ("Q's Blues ), plus jazz evergreens by Duke Ellington ("Cottontail ), Antonio Carlos Jobim ("Triste ), Luiz Bonfa ("Black Orpheus ), Fats Waller ("Honeysuckle Rose ) and Lennon/McCartney ("Norwegian Wood ).

Piper shows his keen awareness on every number, his Tatum/Peterson-inspired chops on "Greater Love and "Cottontail, while Seaton ad-libs Slam Stewart impressions on "Q's Blues and "Honeysuckle Rose, growling in tune as he bows frisky bass solos. Hamilton, who is content for the most part to sit back and lend solid support, emerges from the shadows for some spirited interchanges on "Rose. There's no point in enumerating highlights, as every tune is splendidly performed.

The album's title refers to Bruce Collier's record label, founded in 1959 and named after a well-known Dallas jazz club. Having lain dormant for many years, it has now been resuscitated by Collier and his wife, Jan. If this marvelous session is any indication of what is to come, long may it survive and prosper.

Track Listing: Cheek to Cheek; Qs Blues; Carlene; Triste; Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries; There Is No Greater Love; Norwegian Wood; Black Orpheus; Cottontail; Honeysuckle Rose (70:45).

Personnel: Brian Piper: piano; Lynn Seaton: bass; Jeff Hamilton: drums.

Record Label: 90th Floor Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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