Dave Peck: Good Road

Jason West By

Sign in to view read count
If Peck plays Huck Finn to Johnson's Tom Sawyer, then Joe La Barbera is the mighty Mississippi, rolling and swirling, propelling the trio downriver with cymbal and drum.
Dave Peck
Good Road
Let's Play Stella

Extended intros and cadenzas, embellished harmonic signposts, hints of melodic foreshadowing, frenetic bursts of rhythmic energy, and pregnant moments of ballad magic drive Good Road to the edge of the proverbial cliff and blissfully over.

Seattle pianist and composer Dave Peck has released five trio recordings in the past seven years on his Let's Play Stella record label: Trio (1998), The Piano (1999) and 3 and 1 (2000) featured Chuck Deardorf and Dean Hodges on bass and drums, respectively; Out of Seattle: Live at Jazz Alley (2002) introduced Jeff Johnson and Joe La Barbera as Peck's most recent collaborators. This trio's 2005 offering sticks to DP's established game plan of interpreting standard jazz cartography in curiously original ways.

While Peck is in the driver's seat, it would be a grave error to portray Johnson and La Barbera as simply dutiful role-players. Far from just a sideman, Johnson contributes half of the melodic and harmonic conversation on these eight tracks. His dexterous bass— soloing or accompanying, thunderous or whispering, interrupting or harmonizing, always listening—is in constant communication with its 88-key companion. Like two kids in a Mark Twain story, their candor is refreshing.

If Peck plays Huck Finn to Johnson's Tom Sawyer, then Joe La Barbera is the mighty Mississippi, rolling and swirling, propelling the trio downriver with cymbal and drum. La Barbera's instinct for navigating time's ubiquitous twists and turns proves, especially on the ballads, true as a compass needle.

The discerning listener who enjoys playing name that tune will be hard pressed upon hearing the overture to "Yesterdays or "What Is This Thing Called Love ; each is a miniature composition in itself. Peck's intro to the Jerome Kern piece is given a spacious, haunting, minor-chord feel over a straight eighth-note rhythm. Cole Porter's rhetorical question begins, quite unexpectedly, under the veil of a drum solo slowly lifted to reveal a paired down harmony of dominant one and five chords.

"Low Key Lightly and "The Star Crossed Lovers are obscure Ellington ballads with remarkable backstories. The former can be heard on the soundtrack to Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder. Duke Ellington has a bit part in the flick, and after his scene we hear his song. The latter appears in Duke's Shakespeare Suite. It's a bittersweet romance which Peck performs elegantly, true to the Ellington original.

"Green Dolphin Street and "Just in Time transform the trio into high energy swingers: medium-up-tempo vigilantes with a license to kill. Their crazy rhythms light a fire that burns like a slug of whisky, with patches of melody and harmony for chaser. But the real barnburner is "What Is This Thing Called Love ; no wonder Peck's infamous growl makes an appearance on this track. (His raspy alter ego is also audible on "Green Dolphin Street. )

Keeping Gorst The Friendly Growl locked up in the basement of DP's subconscious is preferable, but not always possible, especially when Johnson and La Barbera are pounding on the door, begging him to come out and play. "I guess when I get really into it (the music) I loose control, and then I start forgetting (not to growl), Peck says. "I don't know. It's always there in the recording studio. I try to keep it to a minimum.

"The First Song of Spring is the only original composition here and a curious one. It's without a traditional beginning or end. Its bridge and choruses overlap indistinguishably. There are countless key changes, no tonal center and no resolution to the building harmonic tension. It teases and tantalizes, sounding ultimately like an erudite musical exercise. Which, in fact, it is. Young composers in Peck's 1992 music theory class at Cornish College of the Arts (where DP taught for 18 years before retiring in 2003) wrote the chord progression according to a set of rules for standard harmony that they had discussed during the year. "It was basically a random thing where students chose the chords and the keys and I went home that night and wrote a simple melody, explains the professor. "I think the kids in the class were probably trying to make it as hard as possible.

Saving the best for last, the trio offers a simple yet beautiful rendition of Rogers and Hart's "She Was Too Good To Me. Ballads like this one are why I listen to Dave Peck. Aural visions of melancholy, heartbreak and happiness are portrayed with the same honesty and humility as heard on "Ana Luiza (on 3 and 1) and "I Loves You, Porgy (Out of Seattle).

One wonders, is there someone or something that provides the pianist with inspiration? An image of perfection? Magic elixir? "No, he says. "I just love that song.

Personnel: Dave Peck, piano; Jeff Johnson, bass; Joe La Barbera, drums

Visit Dave Peck on the web.

Year Released: 2005 | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


CD/LP/Track Review
Extended Analysis
CD/LP/Track Review
Read more articles
Bill Evans Bill Evans
Cedar Walton Cedar Walton
Dave Brubeck Dave Brubeck
Buck Hill Buck Hill
sax, tenor
Ray Brown Ray Brown
bass, acoustic
Tom Tallitsch Tom Tallitsch
sax, tenor
Thad Jones Thad Jones
Fred Hersch Fred Hersch
Mark Colby Mark Colby

More Articles

Read Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight Extended Analysis Tim Bowness: Lost in the Ghostlight
by John Kelman
Published: February 19, 2017
Read Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon Extended Analysis Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon
by Doug Collette
Published: February 18, 2017
Read Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix) Extended Analysis Chicago II (Steven Wilson Remix)
by John Kelman
Published: February 12, 2017
Read The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome Extended Analysis The Rolling Stones: Blue and Lonesome
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: November 27, 2016
Read Nat Birchall: Creation Extended Analysis Nat Birchall: Creation
by Phil Barnes
Published: November 23, 2016
Read "Snowboy and the Latin Section: New York Afternoon" Extended Analysis Snowboy and the Latin Section: New York Afternoon
by Phil Barnes
Published: April 21, 2016
Read "U.K.: Ultimate Collectors' Edition" Extended Analysis U.K.: Ultimate Collectors' Edition
by John Kelman
Published: September 25, 2016
Read "Neil Young & The Promise of The Real: Earth" Extended Analysis Neil Young & The Promise of The Real: Earth
by Doug Collette
Published: June 19, 2016
Read "Jack Tempchin: One More Song" Extended Analysis Jack Tempchin: One More Song
by Doug Collette
Published: September 25, 2016
Read "Jim Ridl: Door in a Field V2, Songs of the Green River" Extended Analysis Jim Ridl: Door in a Field V2, Songs of the Green River
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: October 17, 2016
Read "Steve Reich: The ECM Recordings" Extended Analysis Steve Reich: The ECM Recordings
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: October 29, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

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!