Although he's only 25, pianist Guy Mintus has already forged a musical vision well beyond his years. And he's got sensational chops to match it, as A Home In Between
makes clear. It's an outstanding piano trio disc, with a compelling hybrid of styles that includes bop, classical and Israeli and Eastern European folk influences. There seemingly isn't anything Mintus can't tackle, and it is impressive that he succeeds as often as he does on this exciting debut recording.
The first thing one notices about Mintus is the dynamic range and mature touch he brings to his playing. He has fearsome techniqueanyone wondering about his jazz credentials need only listen to his dazzling performance of Warne Marsh
's "Background Music," where his two-handed facility in particular is astonishingbut this is not one of those records in which the goal is simply to showcase the leader's ability. Going well beyond that, Mintus tells stories with his compositions that utilize an entire palette of styles and emotional registers. The record's opener, "Our Journey Together," is a case in point. Built around a minor-key folk melody in 3/4, the track allows Mintus to range from delicate, classically-inspired filigrees to propulsive, relentless driving passages and powerhouse chords, making use of the entire keyboard in the process. It's a seven-minute tour-de-force, played with conviction and purpose.
Mintus's partners, with whom he's worked for a few years, are central to the success of the record. Bassist Tamir Shmerling
combines nimble dexterity with a strong ear for melody, an essential trait in light of the memorable tunes at the heart of Mintus's music. He's as likely to trace out the melodic arc of a piece as is Mintus, as is evident in his contributions during the trio's gorgeous rendition of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," where his articulation of and commentary on the melody are expertly done. And drummer Philippe Lemm
clearly shares Mintus's stylistic fluidity. He can swing with the best of them, as demonstrated by the impeccable foundation he provides on "Background Music," but he also navigates the folk and classical aspects of the music with aplomb, and even throws in a bit of Bossa Nova on the collectively improvised "In the Moment." Nor is he reluctant to bang the kit around when it's called for, either: listen to the huge sound he brings to "Çoban Sirto," where his furious snare salvos and ride cymbal pyrotechnics fuel the feverish, danceable Turkish folk tune.
Many listeners will be tempted to deconstruct each track, identifying the various influences that are found here. And there are a lot of them. But it's worth emphasizing that the music ultimately succeeds as an integrated whole: Mintus has already developed his own sound, so whether a tune draws more heavily from Israeli or Turkish folk sources, or invokes a jazz- based or classical idiom, is really beside the point. A better approach, to be sure, is simply to dive into and enjoy what is a fantastic trio recordone that heralds the arrival of a significant talent and a superb band.