You'll oftern hear it said of a jazz record that it pays to give the music your full attention. That's usually good advice; much of the jazz offered up doesn't fall into the "hit you over the head" category. Subtleties and nuance often prevail, which is especially true of piano trio sets. But I've found another tack to take on the initial encounter: I put a disc on as background music and go about my life. The winning sounds refuse to fade into the background; they insist on your attention. They reach out and grab you and say, "Listen to me."
The Walter Lang Trio's Softly As In A Morning Sunrise
passes that test. It takes you by the shoulders and spins you around so that you face the speakers and gives you a little shake, the way the best contemporary piano triosled by the Jarretts and the Mehldausdo.
The set opens with a quirky, sharp-edged melody, piano alone, joined soon by bass/drums, on the Lang-penned piece "Monsieur Hulot." It's apparent right away that the group cohesion is first-rate, a push/pull, give and take conversation where the players are listening, responding, and complementing each others' remarks.
Seven of the eleven tunes are Lang originals, songs that sound as though they could be classics, especially the aforementioned opener, as well as "Casino Estoril," which churns along of a buoyant momentum; the spicy "Pensao Central"; and the beautifully pensive "Call on Bill." The set is well-paced, with the trio swinging back and forth between extroversion and introversion, working with a fine choice of standard fare that they put their own stamp on with reverence: "Autumn Leaves," "Alone Together," "Spring is Here," and the title tune.
A fine disc that should earn the Munich-based trio some attention on this side of the Atlantic.
Visit Walter Lang on the web.
Personnel: Walter Lang: piano; Nicolas Thys: bass; Rick Hollander: drums.