Pianist Kenny Werner, whose influential book Effortless Mastery is widely used as a textbook in music pedagogy, has much to add about breaking down the barriers of artistic expression. He believes that an education is a necessary evil that provides the rudiments of technique but also restricts individuality. Mastery offers various methods to eliminate those restrictions, allowing the artist to unmask the secret forces that drive spontaneous creation.
There are no apparent creative obstructions as Werner joins Polish drummer Bartlomiej "Brat" Oles on the latter's recording Shadows, which also features Brat's brother Marcin on bass. Having always wanted to attempt a piano trio album, Brat could not have arranged for a more archetypal proponent of the format than Werner, for whom the trio has long been the group setting of choice.
Brat wrote all of the compositions excluding Marcin's "Green Water," which appeared previously on the bassist's own quartet recording Walk Songs and already sounds like a standard. A fine composer and highly skilled drummer, Brat nevertheless refuses to showboat: Shadows is arguably a platform for Werner, with the Oles brothers providing a typically solid foundation.
This is not to suggest that Werner, a seasoned player who offsets his boundless originality with tasteful restraint, eclipses his bandmates in any way. Few bass players strive for the kind of lyricism with which Marcin performs his solos, and Brat's exquisitely nuanced drumming makes hearing the disc through headphones a must.
A sense of balance between light and dark is maintained throughout the recording; for example, "Good News" navigates a bumpy emotional terrain, but its lively and subdued sections are held together by a sly thematic unity. Whenever the need arises, the group swings something fierce, so it's regrettable that the disc mellows a bit too early; however, this is more a result of track sequencing than of content.
The title of the closing track, "It's Only a Dream," is somewhat ironic given the importance that dreams have to artistic expression; witness surrealism, or virtually the entire medium of cinema. If dreams are where the imagination is free to roam, unbound by the neuroses of the conscious mind, then Shadows is, indeed, only a dream.
Visit Bartlomiej "Brat" Oles and Marcin Oles on the web.
Track Listing: Discovery; White Tree; Good News; Green Water; Shadows; Shape & Shade; Blanka Centauri; It's Only a Dream.
Personnel: Kenny Werner: piano; Marcin Oles: bass; Bartlomiej "Brat" Oles: drums.
Record Label: Fenommedia
Style: Modern Jazz
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