Paul Tobey is that rare pianist who doesn't play so much as plot as a composer might. Well he should since seven of the eight tunes on the young Canadian's debut, Wayward, are his own. And they're well worth hearing. He is a masterfully musical player and a fascinating composer whose musical patterns - written and improvised - are fully fleshed points of logic that take story-like form.
Obviously schooled in the classics, Tobey's swinging nature comes from an understanding of what Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea are sometimes capable of. His music - like his predecessors has a special voice that relays deeply complicated ideas in often appealing, simple ways. Oddly, though, Tobey often yields melody statements and lead solos to other voices: a sax, trumpet or guitar. But, as with Hancock's Speak Like A Child or The Prisoner, Tobey's authorship or ownership is never in doubt.
Even though Tobey could have gone one direction as he does on two upcoming projects: a solo outing and a marvelous quartet disc he opts for variety here. He heads a trio (appropriately on Bill Evans's "Very Early"), a quartet (the hard-bop redux of "Don't Resist It"), a quintet (the lovely "Acquiescence"), a sextet ("Time Share") and an 11-piece Latin orchestra (the standard-worthy title cut, "Ninth Hole-Par Four," "Indigo" and the effervescently funky "Son Montuno Blue"). The impression is not of a hodge-podge, but suggestive of a consistent vision in the leader's artistry. Like the weaver of chapters, Tobey alternates tempos and objectives (primarily Latin with bebop, in this case) without dissuading the singular power of his one true voice.
Wayward 's lasting impression is ultimately not as distinctive as Tobey's potential implies. But several moments here ("Wayward," "Acquiescence," "Son Montuno Blue" and "Don't Resist It") reward repeated listening and suggest an open field for further consideration. Tobey is a special pianist and Wayward exposes a powerful talent.
Songs:Wayward, Acquiescence; Ninth Hole - Par Four; Indigo; Time Share; Very Early; Son Montuno Blue; Don't Resist It.
Players:Paul Tobey: piano; Pat LaBarbera: tenor sax; Alex Dean: tenor and soprano sax; John Johnson: alto sax; John MacLeod: trumpet, flugelhorn; Sandy Barter: trumpet; Terry Promane, Rob Somerville: trombone; Ray Patterson: guitar; Roberto Occhipinti, Neil Swainson: bass; Mark McLean: drums; Armando Borg: percussion.