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Debbie Poryes: A Song in Jazz

Dan McClenaghan By

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The notes ring out, and then they're gone, vibrations waning away to silence. Pianist Debbie Poryes—who has taught at the Berkeley Jazzschool in Northern California since 2000; who taught in The Netherlands for the better part of the 1980s; who worked her first regular gig playing five nights a week, from five until midnight, for a year at Martino's restaurant in Berkeley—has surely played a million notes; very few of them recorded for posterity, sadly.

A Song in Jazz isn't Poryes' debut—there was a set recorded for Timeless Records during her "Dutch" years—but it is her first recording in a long while, and it is a stellar outing that introduces a piano trio that plays with an interactive verve and elegance, bringing Bill Evans and Tommy Flanagan to mind for comparison's sake.

A mostly standards set, A Song in Jazz opens with Richard Rodgers' "A Wonderful Guy." Poryes treats the pretty melody with a lilting grace, with bassist Bill Douglas and drummer David Rokeach adding light buoyancy—a gorgeous tune in these hands. The pianist picks a couple of Ray Noble's compositions next: "I Hadn't Anyone Till You" and "The Very Thought of You," bright and extroverted on the former, pensive and inward on the latter, with Poryes getting deep inside these classic melodies, then stretching it a bit outside them on her creative soloing.

The Dietz/Schwartz gem, "Alone Together" opens in a dark, churning mode, a propulsive tumult, the trio cooking with an edgy reverence.

Poryes and company also cover a couple of Monk's favorite tunes, "Sweet and Lovely" and "Pannonica," with Poryes going solo here to explore the Thelonious-onian quirks and angles in fine fashion.

Poryes includes a tune of her own, "So It Seemed," a strong melody that fits well with the rest of the set; and she surprises with the closer, Jules Styne's "People," Barbra Streisand's signature piece. "People" is, of course, a familiar tune, one that no singer (but Streisand) should try to tackle—the same hands off approach that applies to Sinatra and "New York, New York" or Dione Warwick and "Alfie." But it's that familiarity fitting into an elastic treatment by a first rate and interactive piano trio, with a highly vibrant keyboardist—same thing with "Alfie" on Brad Mehldau's Day is Done (Nonesuch Records, 2005)—that makes the tune such a knockout listening experience: a beautiful introspective closer to an excellent set.

Track Listing: A Wonderful Guy; I Hadn't Anyone Till You; The Very Thought of You; Alone together; Sweet and lovely; So It Seemed; Pannonica; People.

Personnel: Debbie Poryes: piano; Bill Douglass: bass; David Rokeach: drums.

Title: A Song in Jazz | Year Released: 2007 | Record Label: Self Produced


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