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The alchemists' esoteric quest of transforming the mundane into the precious and pure, literally such as transmuting base metals into gold, but also figuratively, applies to art and artists as well. For their part, jazz musicians extricate vibrations from instruments to translate feelings and touch peoples' souls. Maybe inspired by the nobler aspirations of the age old science, virtuoso pianist Jeff Gardner released his self-produced Alchemy in 1990. The session also features bassist and Keith Jarrett Trio pillar Gary Peacock.
The two opening tracks"Alchemy, a swinging bass/piano unison head, and the bossa nova "Coisa Do Rio as well as the bop-ish "Line For Tommy Flanagan exemplify the many facets of Gardner's well-honed improvisational and compositional skills.
A real gem, "Angel is a lyrical waltz with a Bill Evans-like melody and mesmerizing solos. And the vintage "For Duke & Strayhorn sounds so close to the tributees' musical essence it could have been penned by either two titans.
Agile and expressive, Gardner blends the stylings of modern masters like Paul Bley, McCoy Tyner and John Taylor with straight-ahead hard bop elements. The only negative trait of his playing is the straying, lengthy tirades into which he sometimes ventures. On "Between Our Hearts and the ending of "Stories Untold, both E Phrygian pedals, these just sound superfluous.
That said, Gardner still remains an under-the-radar and overlooked musician. He is a Brazilian music specialist, author and classically-trained composer (he studied with renowned pedagogue Nadia Boulanger in France.) In fact, a deserving mention goes to Universal Jazz France's Daniel Richard for picking up the rights to this recording as well as 1996's Second Home and give them international distribution. In sum, if Alchemy is not Gardner's philosopher's stone, it nevertheless mixes the right ingredients...and emotions.
Track Listing: Alchemy; Coisa Do Rio; Stories Untold; Line For Tommy Flanagan; Waiting On You; Angel; For Duke & Strayhorn; City At The Bottom Of The Sea; Betwen Our Hearts; Zero Gravity; Dancarina; Maastricht; Selva.
Personnel: Jeff Gardner: piano; Gary Peacock: bass.
I love jazz because anything is possible; it has few rules and the best jazz breaks those ones. I prefer free improv because it doesn't really have any rules at all.
I was first exposed to jazz in my teens (in the late sixties).
The first jazz record I bought was Filles de Kilimanjaro by Miles Davis, shortly followed by Extrapolation by John McLaughlin.
My advice to new listeners is to listen as widely as possible and not to make snap judgments--stick with it.