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On "Blues Liberation" master sideman Jim Ridl goes it alone in a program of improvised solo piano compositions. The disc opens with "Blues Azzara", an homage to the great Pat Martino, one of the band leaders Jim’s wonderful piano has contributed so much to in recent years. (Azzara is Pat’s birth name.) Replete with dark, ominous chords, counter-point, note retentions and wandering right hand figures, it’s a fine, wistful dedication. "Battle of the Bands" is a modern take on the grand history of the piano, as swing, stride and boogie-woogie effortlessly flow together into a big band sound while Jim’s right hand "battles" his left. Whatever Jim saw on "Aisle Five" it was some bad stuff! Jim staggers then races up and down the keyboard at warp speed, kind of like Cecil Taylor by way of Oscar Peterson. "La Dee, La Daa" is a simply gorgeous modern ballad. The title refers to what the piano seems to "say" in the main figure of the piece. James P. Johnson and Willie "The Lion" Smith themselves would dig "Get After It Boogie". Again, the race is on, and Jim does get after it. The left hand stays home with the ostinato boogie figure while the chords and fills in the right hand go into outer space! "Blue Corn" features more of a be-bop approach, the entire piece a foray into impossible single note lines played in octaves, starting low on the piano and ending in the higher register. This is a master class on how to play modern jazz and octaves on the piano as Jim displays his incredible technique, innate sense of rhythmic drive and comfort with up-tempos. The disc closes as softly as it opened with "A Lovely Impression" and "Blue Dot", both impressionistic variations on a theme. "Blues Liberations" is a success - here the blues is liberated and free to mingle with its classical, modern jazz, rhythm and blues, avant-garde and new age cousins. The sounds are cerebral and swinging with one foot in the illustrious tradition of the instrument and both eyes firmly facing the future of the music.
Track Listing: Blue Azzara; Just Left Of The Delta; Battle Of The Bands; Play, My Heart, In Blue; Aisle Five; La Dee, La Daa; Prelude And More; Get After It Boogie; Clusters Last Stand; Pass It On; Snake Dance; You Know How It Is; Rushzin' Berz Bluz; Uh Huh, That's Right; Blue Corn; Slinky; Descending On Io; A Lovely Impression; Blue Dot.