Recorded live on successive nights in May, 2009 in Texas, Taagi
provides a welcome bulletin on under-exposed pianist Curtis Clark. Though born in Chicago, Clark first made his mark in Los Angeles back in the 1970s under the influence of the late pianist/bandleader Horace Tapscott
. Since then he has resided in Amsterdam, recording with many of the mainstays of the Dutch scene, until recently relocating to New England. An appearance with trumpeter Dennis Gonzalez
on A Matter Of Blood
(Furthermore, 2009) was most likely the link which saw the pianist hooked up with Gonzalez's sons Aaron and Stefan for this mini-tour.
Together, they essay seven originals and one perennial from the American Songbook during the course of a low-key, 66-minute program with a late night feel. Although inspiring covers by other performers (TRIO 3 (lake/workman/cyrille)
spring to mind), the pianist's compositions act more as reference points to be toyed with but not fully embraced. Clark's brightly recorded piano blends introspective romanticism and muscular gospel into a rich harmonic tide with a powerful blues undertow, while Aaron Gonzalez' incisive full-toned bass moves in understated counterpoint alongside brother Stefan's crisply supportive drums. In fact, bass and drums don't so much lead or follow Clark as keep pace on a parallel track, rarely meshing beyond tempo, pulsing freely rather than keeping time, to set up a nervy unresolved tension.
It's only on "NYC Wildlife" that piano and bass navigate the bop-ish bounce in close unison, demonstrating the intent behind their avoidance of tight harmony on other pieces. Elsewhere, a passage of locomotive rolling piano on "Suite: Joy/Blessings" opens out into three-way interplay, before leading to a churchy conclusion. Both the title track and the standard "Beautiful Love" receive classic ballad treatment, with the merest passes at the melody amid open conversational dialogue; the former featuring particularly pleasing cymbal colorations and a fine bass solo. However, it is ultimately telling that the strongest momentssuch as the introductions to the two suites and "Joy"are those where Clark ruminates alone.
Personnel: Curtis Clark: piano; Aaron Gonzalez: bass; Stefan Gonzalez: drums.