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Amanda Tosoff: Wait and See (2008)

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Amanda Tosoff: Wait and See How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

It did not take long for Amanda Tosoff to crack open the door of recognition. It took just two records, to be precise. Wait And See has an almost delightfully tongue-in-cheek ring to it, as Tosoff appears to be heralding an arrival and recognition as a composer, pianist and bandleader all in one—and she may as well take a bow. This is a well-rounded record, rich in challenging compositions, performed with sublime technique in an expressive and self-assured voice at the piano. The record also marks the pianist as a bandleader worthy of note—one who is unafraid to work in small and medium formats—on this occasion, in a trio, quartet and quintet.

Throughout the record, Tosoff displays a fine sense of balance between her ability to read perfectly the spirit and swing of the ensemble as well as her control over the improvised solo. And although she is exquisitely restrained when she is forced to draw the solo spotlight upon herself, as in "Soaring," she quickly gives notice that she can—without allowing herself to drown the music with too many notes—hold her own and sing with a flourish, like Mike Garson, for instance, or even Chick Corea. On the same track, her interplay with bassist Sean Cronin in the penultimate chorus of her song recalls the charm and grace of Bill Evans and Scott LaFaro.

It is this finely skilled interplay that drives "Julia's Blues," a quirky swinging song that reveals that Tosoff also knows her musical ancestry in its acknowledgment of not merely blues pianists but (in an oblique way) the earlier stride pianists as well. For musicians today to display even a smattering of that much Jazz musical history is quite rare and refreshing. "New," "Sad Clown," "Robyn's Song" and the title track, "Wait And See," are all very sophisticated compositions and here as on other tracks too, Tosoff shows a remarkable grasp of the art of the song. She also has a fine sense of the narrative and, although many of the songs have more of a "minor" feel, her sense of drama—especially pathos— is all too real. And this means that Tosoff is serious about her art and is also unafraid to make an almost literary leap every now and then.

The element of surprise and the overall success of the project is also due, in no small measure, to the fact that these musicians appear to communicate almost telepathically. It isn't just a matter of ideas being tossed out as the musical exploration turns up something exciting, but there is a sense that these musicians know each other's thoughts deeply and can communicate at a deeper, more cerebral level. They do just that on Sean Cronin's "Shorinji Kempo," a fast-paced sketch and on "Stove-Top" as well.

This is a complete record and defines this pianist and composer. That makes the prospect Tosoff's next record all the more exciting.

Track Listing: Soaring; Julia's Blues; New; Shorinji Kempo; Sad Clown; Robyn's Song; Wait And See; Stove Top; Let Me Know; Re-try.

Personnel: Amanda Tosoff: piano; Brad Turner: trumpet and flugelhorn; Evan Arntzen: tenor and soprano saxophone; Sean Cronin: acoustic bass; Morgan Childs: drums.

Record Label: Cellar Live

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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