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Roberta Piket: Domestic Harmony: Piket Plays Mintz

Dan McClenaghan By

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Pianist Roberta Piket was subbing in trombonist Joey Sellers' band in 1998 when she first met drummer Billy Mintz. In an All About Jazz interview, in 2011 with Victor Schermer, Piket said of that first encounter: "I noticed Billy, because the room was very dark, and yet he was wearing sunglasses; he seemed very strange. But I got to know him a bit..."

Then one thing led to another, a musical collaboration was born and they got married. Some years passed and Piket produced a birthday present for her husband, Domestic Harmony: Piket Plays Mintz.

Over a long career—for perspective, he played in the Lee Konitz Nonet in the late 70s—Billy Mintz has not recorded much under his own name. Beautiful You (Origin Records, 2004), a duo outing with saxophonist John Gross, was his first. Then came Mintz Quartet (Thirteenth Note Records, 2013), Two Bass Band...Live (Thirteenth Note Records, 2015), and the superb double CD—call it career defining—Ugly Beautiful (Thirteenth Note Records, 2017). That's it. You could call it a thin resume, recording-wise, considering the number of years involved. Considering the quality of the music and musicianship, he has done very well.

Like pianist Thelonious Monk and drummer Paul Motian, Mintz writes simple and distinctively quirky tunes. Roberta Piket interprets these for solo piano on Domestic Harmony: Piket Plays Mintz with a devotional zest, and with obvious love, on a project that was originally conceived as a birthday gift to her husband and musical partner. The "gift" opens with "Ghost Sanctuary," maybe the loveliest of Mintz' creations, haunting and hypnotic, ruminative, it could serve as his signature tune, as "Crepuscule with Nellie" served Monk. "Beautiful You" is certainly a love song, a celebration that sounds like a successful audition for the jazz standard ranking. "Looking Down At the Stars" is a lovely, time-stands-still ballad.

A spin through Mintz' discography reveals his "outside" approach in part, perhaps, due to his choice of free-leaning saxophonists—John Gross and Tony Malaby. For her part, Piket has been described as an outside/inside artist. On Domestic Harmony she brings the Mintz sound closer to the inside, revealing the simple beauty of the previously-mentioned tunes, as well as "Shmear" and "Your Touch," while "Ugly Beautiful" retains its dark, outside urgency, and "Cannonball" pulses ahead with angular momentum.

And then there is "Destiny," Piket's lone vocal contribution, her heartfelt, everywoman singing contrasting perfectly with her lush, complex piano playing.

Billy Mintz has a special genius for penning memorable tunes; Roberta Piket has a beautiful way of interpreting them, on Domestic Harmony: Piket Plays Mintz.

Track Listing: Ghost Sanctuary; Beautiful You; Looking Down at the Stars; Shmear; Flight; Destiny; Your Touch; Blinds Eye; Ugly Beautiful; Cannonball.

Personnel: Roberta Piket, piano, vocal (6).

Title: Domestic Harmony: Piket Plays Mintz | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Thirteenth Note Records

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