The versatile pianist John DiMartino has made a name for himself as a sideman in Latin jazz bands and as an accompanist for vocalists, but has yet to be justly acknowledged for his abilities as the leader of a straight-ahead instrumental jazz group. On his second "Romantic Jazz Trio" date for the Japanese Venus label, Di Martino overcomes the limitations of a "sentimental" program directive and proves that he is certainly a "talent deserving wider recognition."
Schooled in harmony with Lennie Tristano and Don Sebesky, the pianist has assembled original arrangements for the trio, featuring Ira Coleman on bass and the great Grady Tate on drums, that reveal a genuine genius for small group orchestration. The program is an eclectic blend of standards from the Great American Songbook combined with choices from the pop, operatic, and Latin repertories that are seldom approached by jazz musicians.
The disc begins with an exhilarating reworking of "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise" that is reminiscent of Ahmad Jamal in both its power and taste. It's followed by a swinging interpretation of the Lennon/McCartney love song "Michelle" driven by Tate's wonderful brushwork. Coleman's flawless arco bass is featured on Ruggero Leoncavallo's "Vesti La Giubba" (from Pagliacci), while the bassist's impeccable pizzicato is showcased on his melodic reading of the Rafael Hernandez classic "Lamento Boricano." The trio shines as an organic unit on the Cole Porter title track, a whole even greater than the sum of its excellent parts.
There are some surprises in the program, like the tender, previously unrecorded ballad "Love Is Stronger Than Us," the beautiful "When I Look In Your Eyes" (from Doctor Dolittle), and a marvelous reharmonization of Gershwin's "Summertime," as well as supremely suitable selections such as Henry Mancini's "Moment To Moment" and Michel Legrand's "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life."
This extremely well-recorded session, as relaxing as it is romantic, shines a well-deserved spotlight on Di Martino's substantial skills as a pianist and interpreter of the standard repertoire, but it still offers only a glimpse into the full breadth of his musicianship. Interested listeners should also investigate the pianist's self produced disc Birds Of The Heart, a showcase for his own immensely satisfying compositions.
Personnel: John DiMartino: piano; Ira Coleman: bass; Grady Tate: drums.