Solace came in through the mail slot with two strikes against it: an unfamiliar leader and a program of all originals. Too often, this turns out to be a bad combination – an ego fest of little musical interest – but for once, it was a happy surprise. Pianist/composer Roy Powell is better-known in Europe; born in England in 1965, he was trained there and later moved to Oslo. Powell has worked with Anthony Braxton, Art Farmer, and Vince Mendoza, has written for the ballet, and has led his own groups since 1995; he cites his major influences as Keith Jarrett, Chick Coreea, and Bud Powell. His web site hints at his eclecticism, listing recordings of free and electric jazz, as well as compositions for the ballet; his North by Northwest was hailed as the Best Jazz CD of 2001 by amazon.co.uk.
Solace is Powell's fourth CD under his own name, with a stated mission to "bring hope in a time of pain and grief. It is my belief," Powell writes, "that in such times as these, the need for beauty is greater than ever. The quiet, simple voice speaks loudly..." All very true, and again, in other hands this might turn into a noble excuse for aimless noodling. Solace is dreamy but not drifting: there's structure, melody and dynamic flow to its nine lovely compositions, starting with the title track, where bassist Terje Gewelt's use of spaces adds to the sensation of gentle rocking. The repeating left-hand figures in "Love's Circles" express its hopeful continuity, while "Rendezvous" has just a hint of salsa in its relaxed swing. There's a classical/impressionistic feel to much of Solace, especially on the lovely solo piece "Nymphs."
The CD closes on a hopeful note with a medium bossa and some hand drumming from the fine and subtle Jarle Vespestad. Apart from some over-bassing here and there (mostly on tracks 2 and 3), this is a very soothing CD – an ideal soundtrack for a rainy Sunday afternoon, or after a hard day at work. Solace: exactly.
Track Listing: Solace, Another Time, Another Place; Love's Circles, Rendezvous, The Garden's Song, Nymphs, Lament, Absolution, My Beatrice
Personnel: Roy Powell (piano), Terje Gewelt (bass), Jarle Vespestad (drums)
Author of "The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the myth of the mad genius," Dr. J combines her love of jazz and her fascination with psychology, focusing on where they overlap: in celebrating the individual spirit.