Like label mate Harold Danko, pianist Andy LaVerne possesses talent that should be commensurate with a much broader public awareness. One of sax legend Stan Getz’s favorite accompanists, LaVerne has built a sizable catalog for SteepleChase over the past two decades- some 18 strong- with Between Earth & Mars serving as a reunion with vibraphonist Dave Samuels. Also thrown into the mix is bassist Jay Anderson, who completes this rather atypical trio.
Far away from his visibility as a past member of the popular group Spyro Gyra, Samuels contributes a singular performance that reminds us that he is indeed one of the finest practitioners of his craft. LaVerne strives in this type of configuration as his style is strongly rooted in a deep sense of lyricism and an advanced harmonic knowledge. Anderson does enough to keep things buoyantly afloat to the point that a drummer just isn’t missed.
The piano and vibes combination is a real winner- of course Gary Burton and Chick Corea taught us that long ago- and LaVerne and Samuels have developed attractive arrangements that make the most of a smart mix of contemporary standards and originals. “Blue In Green” is especially arresting in this new form, taken a bit faster than the original (check out another fine duo performance of this one by Burton and Ralph Towner). The title cut, a LaVerne tune, is also a highpoint, sporting an intense solo from Samuels. It may have taken almost a decade for LaVerne and Samuels to create a follow-up to Fountainhead but it was well worth the wait.
Retrospect, Gardenia, On Green Dolphin Street, Tenderly, Blue in Green, Tri-Tones, Maiden Voyage, Between Earth & Mars, B.E. (68:30)
Andy LaVerne- piano, Dave Samuels- vibes, Jay Anderson- bass