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Roberta Piket: Emanation (Solo: Volume 2)

Dan Bilawsky By

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In the liner notes for this stimulating album, pianist Richie Beirach, Roberta Piket's friend and once-upon-a-time teacher, refers to the art of solo piano playing as "the Mount Everest of challenges for a jazz pianist." Ain't that the truth. When put in other situations, from episodes in duo discourse to large ensemble endeavors, pianists have the opportunity to play around, with, and off of others. And although it's completely accurate to say that musically communicating in real time with other individuals is a challenge, it's also something of a safety net. When musical partners vanish from sight and leave pianists to their own devices, many simply settle into a rut, falling back on actual technical devices and settling into routines. But there are those like Piket—a pianist's pianist, as some might say—that seem to always remain fresh, rewiring their brain patterns and hands with each and every solo number they perform.

Emanation, a followup to the simply-titled Solo (Thirteenth Note Records, 2013), finds the pianist in fine form. Piket brings a focused and fiery spirit to "Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise," hurriedly moving along; she blends staid and intriguing sounds during "Emanation," a freely developing rumination that's wholly absorbing; she captures the beauty and emotion beyond "Haunted Heart"; and she emphasizes the portentous qualities that live within Chopin's "Prelude Op. 28 No. 2 in A Minor" during her "Fantasy On a Theme By Chopin."

Piket is equally successful in mining and renovating the music of the jazz masters. She treats Thelonious Monk's "Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are" with respect but never resorts to aping the composer's percussive stylings, redirects the flow of Dizzy Gillespie's "Con Alma" by recasting it in seven, and demonstrates that Herbie Hancock's "Actual Proof" can be far more than a slick electric groove workout. And then there's her take on Marian McPartland's "Ambiance"—mellow and full of sorrowful sonorities, wistful thoughts, and heart-melting moments. It's pure pathos as filtered through the piano.

While Roberta Piket has been releasing high quality dates under her own name since the mid '90s, she remains a woefully underappreciated figure in jazz. Emanation (Solo: Volume 2), the latest piece of evidence to make the case for her artistry, is a memorable date that earns high marks in every category, from the creative to the technical to the emotional.

Track Listing: Softly, As In A Morning Sunrise; Haunted Heart; Con Alma; Saying Goodbye; Ba-Lue Bolivar Ba-Lues-Are; Emanation; All The Things You Are; Ambiance; Actual Proof; Fantasy On A Theme By Chopin.

Personnel: Roberta Piket: piano.

Title: Emanation (Solo: Volume 2) | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Thirteenth Note Records

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