Ms. Cion's follow up to Moon Song will not disappoint; she is a major dynamo in a quiet and lyrical sort of way.
Sarah Jane Cion, the jazz pianist-composer, has a beautiful consistency about her. For her follow up to last year's well-received Moon Song, she has chosen another nocturnal title, Summer Night. Her compositions on both recordings allude to nature in all its manifestations. "The Pond Beneath the Moon," "Moon Song," and "Suncycle" from Moon Song parallel well with "Walking On the Moon, "Summer Night," and "The Safflower" on the new release. Ms. Cion has also (wisely) retained her rhythm section of Phil Palombi and Billy Hart from Moon Song. She has also developed a trend in having guest saxophonists sit in on her recordings. Moon Song sported the talents of the ever present Chris Potter on two tracks. On Summer Night Michael Brecker contributes to the same number of tracks. On both discs, Ms. Cion closes with a reflective solo piano medley of three carefully chosen standards. Consistency indeed.
Something else that is consistent about Sarah Jane Cion is the tremendously high level of her playing and composing. She is a pianist very much in the tradition of Bill Evans, Alan Broadbent, and Fred Hersch, with a bit of Erroll Garner and Kenny Barron thrown in. Having said that, she really sounds like no one other than herself. Her music is very much "pretty" jazz. It is sumptuously melodic, cleverly harmonic, and intelligently lyrical. But don't let her fool you. As soon as you think Ms. Cion is all ballads, as she does with the disc's opening medley of "Never Never Land" and "Pure Imagination" followed by her wistful "Walking on the Moon" she and Michael Brecker mow you down with the machinegun fire of the title piece. Brecker returns for the lengthy original ballad "Prisoner of War" complete with a marching Billy Hart drumbeat and descending bass figures solo. This is music of the highest caliber.
To slay a perfectly good metaphor, Summer Night is fresh and cool like a bright Chardonnay. It has a deeply complex and content character that looms powerfully beneath a bouquet of citrus and summer flowers. Drink deep.
Personnel: Sarah Jane Cion: Piano; Phil Palombi: Bass; Billy Hart: Drums; Michael Brecker: Tenor Saxophone.