Five years have passed since pianist Adrian Cohen released his debut CD, Standardized
(Independent, 2003), an exhilarating exploration of the jazz repertoire in a trio setting. In that time, both Cohen's abilities and his reputation have grown. With Delphic
, Cohen meets and exceeds the promise of his first disc.
The album takes its title from the oracle of Apollo whose temple stood at the foot of Mount Parnassus. The Greek God Apollo spoke through this oracle proclaiming, among other things, that Alexander the Great was "unbeatable." Pianist Cohen does not claim divine inspiration on this disc, but he does produce a sound that is, indeed, hard to beat.
While Standardized was a trio album, Cohen has expanded his palette by adding two more voices to his line-up: Guitarist George Muscatello and saxophonist Adam Niewood. Muscatello, along with bassist Mike DelPrete (the only sideman returning from Standardized) and drummer Danny Whelchel, is a prominent fixture on the New York Capital District jazz scene and a regular member of saxophonist Brian Patneaude's quartet. That Muscatello, DelPrete and Whelchel have been performing together for several years gives the music a solid foundation. It also creates a sense of continuity, since Cohen has performed with Patneaude as well.
Reedman Adam Niewood, a frequent collaborator with drummer Bill Goodwin, is an increasingly prominent player on the NYC scene and is the relative outsider on this date, yet he meshes superbly with Cohen and his cohorts. Mutual respect and admiration resonate on this album.
With the exception of the opener (a stunning take on trumpeter Steve Lambert's "Life"), Delphic is made up entirely of originalsanother departure from Cohen's debut. The compositions are catchy and provide a splendid platform for the individual improvisers. The mood ranges throughout the tunes, from the reflective on "Northwest Passage" and the ebullient on "Red Rug" to the brash on the humorously titled "WTF?."
Arguably the album's greatest moment is on the grooving "Tied Over Tune," which not only features Niewood coloring his lines with an Electronic Wind Instrument (EWI), but also a guest appearance from veteran trumpeter Shunzo Ohno. The track features fiery solos from all concerned, as well as a truly memorable melody line. It is a highlight on an album full of highlights.
With three strong lead voices, it falls to bassist DelPrete and drummer Whelchel to do much of the heavy liftingwhich they do without breaking a sweat.
Delphic is another triumph for Cohen and a reminder that great jazz is still being made wherever talented individuals congregate.