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Art Fristoe: Double Down

James Nadal By

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To paraphrase a well-worn cliché, all music is local. Pianist Art Fristoe is well established in the Houston area as both a dynamic musician, and educator at The High School for Performing and Visual Arts. Reaching beyond his home turf, the Art Fristoe Trio release, Double Down, is a powerful two-disc set encompassing a variety of jazz compositions, which requires repeated listening for full appreciation.

The first disc opens with reworked material from various artists as "Smells Like Teen Spirit," by Nirvana, which he plays in a circular pattern, the identifying riff done with a full chordal attack. Guitarist Lionel Loueke is covered with "Benny's Tune," Fristoe moving over to electric piano. He stays on the electric keys for "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds," as The Beatles opus goes through a total transformation, becoming a sojourn into experimental fusion. But it is his acoustic piano work on tunes as diverse as the odd-metered "Alone Together," and the ballad "Wrong Together," that stimulates the ears.

The accompanists on most of the tracks are his regular working band, bassist Tim Ruiz, and drummer Richard Cholakian. This lineup is changed on "Caravan," which brings in Daleton Lee on drums, augmented by percussionist Ilya Janos. These two return on the second disc, taking the samba "Ela é Carioca" for a tropical stroll; and re-appear on "Speak Low."

Disc two also exhibits that Fristoe is quite comfortable going solo as he does on his original ballads "Better Lately," and "Interlude," revealing a serene side to his talent. "Seventh-Hour Walkup," goes back to the electric instruments, with flashes of prog-rock influences. The straight ahead jazz leanings on "Lambastin'" another Fristoe composition, showcases his grasp of be-bop piano, as does the standard "Beautiful Love." The Latin tinge appears on "Tres Palabras," an undulating glimpse at romance south of the border.

There is a lot of music in this package, which speaks volumes for Fristoe, as he appears to be locked into perpetual engagement. His friend and producer, Joe Peine, says it best: "His playing combines intellect, fiery technique, driving grooves, soulfulness, tenderness, thoughtful harmonization, naturally played alternative meters, and he is full of ideas." So, if ever in Houston, go check out the best pianist in town, Art Fristoe.

Track Listing

Disc 1: Smells Like Teen Spirit; ECM; Benny’s Tune; Caravan; Alone Together; Wrong Together; Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds; Blackbird; Disc 2: Forgetting I knew You; Ela é Carioca; Seventh-Four Walkup; Better Lately; Lambastin’; Interlude; Interlude; Beautiful Love; Tres Palabras; Speak Low.

Personnel

Art Fristoe: piano; Tim Ruiz: bass; Richard Cholakian: drums; Daleton Lee: drums (disc 1: 4, 5, disc 2: 2, 9); Ilya Janos: percussion (disc 1: 4, disc 2: 2, 9).

Additional information

Title: Double Down | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Merry Lane Records

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