271

Phil Markowitz: Catalysis

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Phil Markowitz: Catalysis With so many artists striving for attention, it's often easy to overlook those who have devoted their lives to music, known amongst musician circles as players of great depth while remaining largely below the radar. His discography as a leader may be small, but Phil Markowitz has, for the past three decades, been the pianist of choice for more visible artists including saxophonist David Liebman—in whose group he worked for a decade, collaborating on the dark-hued and pensive duet disc Manhattan Dialogues (Zoho, 2005) and, as part of the tenor trifecta Saxophone Summit, releasing Seraphic Light (Telarc, 2008)—and Yellowjackets saxophonist Bob Mintzer, heard most recently on In the Moment (Art of Life, 2007). Catalysis, Markowitz's first date as a leader since 1998, is a trio record that amply proves why he's so in-demand, and transcends preconceptions about what this sometimes over-worked format can and cannot be.

Over the course of eight original compositions, Markowitz leans towards a cerebral, impressionistic style that contrasts with another undervalued pianist, Marc Copland, in his ability to burn harder and with greater extroversion when necessary—another reason why he works so well with Liebman. With bassist Jay Anderson and drummer Adam Nussbaum onboard—two more players who've racked up countless sessions and tours, yet remain mysteriously lesser known—Markowitz has a flexible trio capable of navigating "Undercurrents," which references its title by fluidly traversing a broad range of styles while demonstrating an organic ebb and flow. Complex, yet never for its own sake, the song's transitions are so seamless as to be nearly invisible, with Nussbaum crossing over from mid-tempo swing to high velocity turbulence, near-funk and shuffle, only to return to ambling swing as Markowitz's lengthy head opens up. Markowitz's solo evolves over a similarly shifting landscape anchored by Anderson, its constant twists and turns as seemingly unpredictable as the undercurrents to which it references; though the trio's effortless movements make clear that this is anything but unplanned.

"Waiting," Catalysis' other lengthy track at nearly 12 minutes, demonstrates Markowitz's ability to go long without ever overstaying his welcome. A solo piano opening treads the line between ethereal abstraction and a dramatic introduction of the theme and ambience of the piece; but when Anderson and Nussbaum enter after Markowitz's intro fades to black, it becomes a lyrical but harmonically dark ballad that moves in and out of time. Markowitz shares the melody with Anderson, whose solo is one of economical perfection.

Catalysis may be categorized as a mainstream disc, and its roots in the tradition are clear—albeit in the broadest possible terms. Still, when Markowitz, Anderson and Nussbaum pack what they do into the fiery and acutely interactive title track, any beliefs that mainstream need inherently suggest safe, predictable or unchallenging are quickly forgotten. Markowitz and his constantly risk-taking trio—capable of keeping the interplay at an empathic level while navigating his demanding yet compelling charts—make Catalysis a sure contender for one of the year's best, piano trio or otherwise.


Track Listing: M.D.A.; For the Sake of; Breach; Whys and Wherefores; Undercurrents; Waiting; Catalysis; Fine.

Personnel: Phil Markowitz: piano; Jay Anderson: bass; Adam Nussbaum: drums.

Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Sunnyside Records | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read Northern Adventures CD/LP/Track Review Northern Adventures
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Collider CD/LP/Track Review Collider
by John Sharpe
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Eos CD/LP/Track Review Eos
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 28, 2017
Read More Than This CD/LP/Track Review More Than This
by Henning Bolte
Published: February 28, 2017
Read Road to Forever CD/LP/Track Review Road to Forever
by Jack Bowers
Published: February 27, 2017
Read Avenida Graham CD/LP/Track Review Avenida Graham
by Edward Blanco
Published: February 27, 2017
Read "Paris" CD/LP/Track Review Paris
by Duncan Heining
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Intermission" CD/LP/Track Review Intermission
by Dave Wayne
Published: June 24, 2016
Read "Gold" CD/LP/Track Review Gold
by Jim Olin
Published: January 25, 2017
Read "Unstatic" CD/LP/Track Review Unstatic
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: August 9, 2016
Read "Welcome Back" CD/LP/Track Review Welcome Back
by John Sharpe
Published: March 28, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: Jazz Near You | GET IT  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!