The release of Debbie Poryes' A Song In Jazz is quite an impressive one for the California pianist. In listening to these tunes mostly from the Great American Songbook, namely the opening showtune, "A Wonderful Guy" from the Rodgers & Hammerstein's South Pacific and the last track, the vastly popular hit "People" from Jule Styne's Funny Girl , one can't help wonder just how the Bill Evans Trio might have handled these compositions. Notice that I said the Evans trio, not just the legendary pianist himself inasmuch as both of these tracks are performed by a totally intuitive, interactive trio in the same manner as Evans/LaFaro/Motian.
Debbie Poryes' partners in music are the veteran bassist, Bill Douglass, whose playing dates back to Marian McPartland and Mose Allison and drummer David Rokeach, who hails from the Ray Charles organization as well as the Broadway production of Jersey Boys. While Poryes herself shows a lot of lyricism evident in her playing, her influences could easily have been other modal players like the early period Herbie Hancock or Fred Hersch. When she begins "A Wonderful Guy" with a tentative melody, Douglass enters into a empathetic duet with her before the full trio brings the composition into a bright and mid-tempo presentation. On "People," a lengthy (almost eleven minutes) examination of the tune takes it from pure ballad to a driven and optimistic ending. Listen to Rokeach's coloration and use of brushes towards the end of this number.
The album offers up some sturdy examples of the classic age of popular songs with the exception of Monk's "Pannonica" which is a piano solo that allows Poryes to embellish the music of the Jazz Master without detracting from it. There is also an original tune, "So It Seems" that fits nicely between "Pannonica" and the Gus Arnheim standard "Sweet and Lovely" with an attractive melody line.
Poryes has been a faculty member of the Berkeley Jazzschool since 2000 and preceding that had a lot of playing time in the Bay Area of San Francisco. Poryes spent most of the 1980s in The Netherlands working as a jazz educator for two Dutch Institutions as well as playing in such clubs as The Bimhaus and Concertgebouw in Amsterdam so it is a bit disappointing that she only has a singular release from the Dutch Timeless label for her efforts. This stunning album should rectify all of that!
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