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If it seems that Rob Schneiderman has faded into the woodwork latelyinstead of remaining active on the New York jazz scene or touring with the likes of J.J. Johnson, George Coleman or Slide Hamptonthat's because he has. The woodwork of academia.
Pursuing his Ph.D. in mathematics at Berkeley, Schneiderman thankfully has found the time to record once more as part of the New York Piano Series of Reservoir Records.
This time out, Schneiderman had two seemingly disconnected interests in mind as he recorded Edgewise: Bud Powell and mathematical theory. While it may seem difficult to reconcile those two concerns, the disciplineand the artof music represent the only opportunity to do so. Consisting as it does of ever-present measurable and notatable temporal measurements, music consists as well of the ever-present human pulse that communicates the artist's intentions to his audience. It may take thousands of words, intellectually written, to describe this connection, but Schneiderman is wise enough just to let the music speak.
It seems that Schneiderman's touch is lighter than Powell's as he incorporates the language of Bud Powell into his own personalized style. Indeed, Schneiderman includes on Edgewise three of Powell's compositions, "Cleopatra's Dream," "I'll Keep Loving You" and "Blue Pearl." And...Schneiderman performs several tunes associated with Powell as well: Oscar Pettiford's "Blues In The Closet" and (from one of Powell's earliest recordings and from his immortal performance on Mingus At Antibes) "I'll Remember April." And...Schneiderman contributes his own composition, "Bud Powell Boulevard," in tribute to one of the geniuses of jazz piano.
With an assured touch, Schneiderman leaves plenty of space for the other members of the trio as well. Interpreting the music with grace and sophistication, the trio shows mutual respect, as great piano trios do, elevating the other's work at the same time that they take their own turns in soloing. That style is set on the first track, "Cleopatra's Dream," with an alternating between the introductory Latin beat and a straight four at the bridge (which reminds the listener of "Autumn Leaves"). In an understated improvisation, Schneiderman makes way for Drummond to lithely develop his own variations on the theme through several choruses. The CD ends in the same manner, re-interpreting "I Remember April" as a beguine before stretching out into a straight-ahead chorus.
In between those numbers, Schneiderman's trio engages the listener with approachable versions of the tunes, "Just One Of Those Things" beginning as a rubato piano introduction over its changes before the swing continues through the rest of the tune. As they vary the approach of "What Is This Thing Called Love," Harper and Drummond back up Schneiderman's first chorus of funk with its minor-keyed suggestions before loosening up at the bridge. And Edgewise loosens up at the end as the trio fades out with the vamp before Drummond exclaims, "Whatever you were going for, you got it!" "I'll Keep Loving You" slows down for a sensitive exploration of Powell's tune, complete with halting accents and cascading notes rippling through the phrases.
One wishes Schneiderman well in his academic pursuits. Based on the clear-visioned maturity of Edgewise, let us hope that he will continue to take time out from mathematical arcanum to record every once in a while.
And to reveal once again, as does every jazz artist, that music remains one of the profound mysteries of the universe.
Track Listing: Cleopatra's Dream, Edgewise, Just One Of Those Things, I'll Keep Loving You, What Is This Thing Called Love, Bud Powell Boulevard, In Walked Bud, Blue Pearl, Blues In The Closet, I'll Remember April
Personnel: Rob Schneiderman, piano; Ray Drummond, bass; Winard Harper, drums
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.