A New Face is a somewhat misleading title for this album. True, this is the debut recording as leader by the 25-year-old Bobby Avey but he's been on the jazz scene for some time. Most notably, he joined star saxophonist Dave Liebman on Vienna Dialogues (ZOHO, 2006) while he was still a student and his regular triobassist Thomson Kneeland and drummer Jordan Pearlson, both featured effectively herehas been together since 2005.
Avey composed all eight tunes on A New Face. The writing displays a real rhythmic sensibility and a love for shifting, at times complex, patterns. Avey's playing style is similarly rhythmic: strong and confident whether creating hard-hitting chordal patterns or fast, flickering, single note runs. In Kneeland and Pearlson the pianist has a rhythm section that matches his own stylePearlson in particular displays a similar talent for hard-hitting and complex patterns. "Late November" exemplifies Avey's approach. It's complex and intricate but still manages to be readily accessible. "Delusion" is a powerful, driving, tune that finds Avey creating strong, emphatic, left-hand lines and features an impressive solo from Kneeland.
Liebman guests on four tracks, three with the trio and one, "Influence," as a duo with Avey. Liebman's approval of the young pianist is no doubt of real benefit in helping Avey to establish himself in the competitive contemporary jazz world. For the most part, Liebman's performances here are equally positive. On "A New Face" his soprano playing is exquisitea flowing, evocative, performance. On "Influence" Liebman and Avey duet with great sensitivityit's a sparse, thoughtful, tune. "In Retreat" and "Time Unfolding" are less successful. Both tunes tend to meander, lacking a strong theme, and Liebman's contributions are at times a little too intense, threatening to overwhelm the other musicians.
The most innovative and emotionally engaging tunes on A New Face are the trio performancesAvey, Kneeland and Pearlson make the most of the extra space available to them to play with confidence. This is a strong, intuitive, trio with great potential.
Late November; In Retreat; Delusional; A New Face; Half is Less Than Half; Influence; Insight; Time Unfolding.
Bobby Avey: piano; David Liebman: soprano and tenor saxophones (2, 4, 6, 8); Thomas Kneeland: bass (1-5, 7-8); Jordan Pearlson; drums (1-5, 7-8).