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Ron Stabinsky: Free for One

Budd Kopman By

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The first thing to note about pianist Ron Stabinsky's debut recording Free For One is the quality of sound. The piano's lows are solid and centered, the mid-range clear and very fast while the highs sing. This is how piano should be recorded—not only is it a good test for the output end (speakers) of the recording/reproduction chain, but the input end (microphones and recording medium), as well as, of course, the production side (mixing and mastering). The Hamburg Steinway D Stabinsky used is an excellent instrument and the bottom line is that all of the nuances and detail which make up Stabinsky's playing have been captured.

Music is emotional sound and is extremely hard to adequately describe except in the most broad manner. Unpremeditated improvisation is especially difficult to put into words, all the more so when the improvisation is not on something (see Jean-Michel Pilc's What Is This Thing Called?), and when the player is comfortable in that place between jazz and modern classical music.

In Charles Evans's wonderful On Beauty Stabinsky turned out to be the glue holding together and enhancing Evans' music. Stabinsky's path to reach this point has taken over a decade of hard work, relentless introspection and self-honesty. Perhaps the most important question is whether the player himself disappears; the bottom line for all music is whether it communicates to and involves the listener. Is he or she moved to tears, to dance, to stop everything and just listen?

Although Free For One is less "romantic" (overall) than Paul Bley's Solo In Mondsee, it is comparable in the cohesiveness of the set, the audible logic of the improvisational development and most importantly in the emotional communication of the performance.

While this music was recorded in one day, most probably the pieces were not recorded in the order presented, especially since (Charles) Evans is given credit for "layout and track selection." Opening with ..."After It's Over" is interesting in that this listener kept hearing very oblique references to Charles Mingus's "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat". That "Once, But Again," with its much "jazzier" feel harmonically and rhythmically (but never actually "swinging") ends the set is also telling.

In between are improvisations of varying character that explore different ideas in ways that can be followed, at least after multiple listens. It is not that Stabinsky can be heard thinking, but rather that the manner in which the music evolves becomes understandable; of course, it is Stabinsky, and not someone else, that is playing, but also in a very real sense the music is simply unfolding and flowing out of him.

Stabinsky's music has enormous emotional depth which, however, might take some time to be appreciated by those who have not come to creative improvised music from the classical side. That said, it is quite worth the time to listen repeatedly to Free For One and be won over by Stabinsky's mind and his music.

Track Listing: ...After It's Over; 31; Viral Infection; Gone Song; For Reel; Not Long Now/Long Now; Rapture; Once, But Again.

Personnel: Ron Stabinsky: piano.

Title: Free for One | Year Released: 2016 | Record Label: Hot Cup Records

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