George Cables is a personal pianist. His harmonic sense, as well as the way he touches the keyboard, the way he comps and the way he phrases, raises him above the pack of competent yet generic players. In his own words, impressed by Herbie Hancock and Chick Corea, but influenced by John Coltrane and Miles Davis, Cables emerged long ago as his own man.
Looking for the Light
Battling back from illness, he has recorded Looking for the Light, a session featuring original compositions (save two) with Gary Bartz (on alto and soprano), bassist Peter Washington and drummer Victor Lewis, a world-class band by anyone's standards.
The hallmark of his writing and arranging here is quietude, even when the proceedings are swinging. The compositions boast fetching melodies wedded to harmonies that encourage the soloists. There is an organic progression from theme statements to and through the solos, leading back to the themes. Still, each song has its own unique personality.
On the title track, note how Cables' solo flows directly from the waltz' elegant melody. "Senorita de Aranjuez"?, a geographical location addressed before in jazz themes, offers a passionate Bartz soprano solo that moves seamlessly from respectful to passionate, after the composer limns his own blue reflection, making full, dramatic use of the keyboard.
This personal touch extends to the songs he did not write. Take the Shirelles' '60s hit (penned by Carole King and Gerry Goffin) "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?"? Swinging slowly, with a supple undercurrent from Washington and Lewis, Cables uses gospel-blues inflections and cadences to personalize the tune, sweeping into the second chorus where he deploys his trademark block chords.
Other highlights abound: among them, the heat generated on "Alice Brown"?, surely a relative of Horace Silver's soulful "Sister Sadie"?; the taste that all hands get on the hard-swinging "Tasshi's Night Out"?, another memorable theme and not just a head; "Mr. Baggy Pants"?, an ingenious blues that switches in and out of four-four with ease and sports a "Watermelon Man"?-like tag as well; and the reflective piano solo "Helen's Mother's Song"?, a worthy companion to his earlier "Helen's Song"?.
Cables is featured on Portal, an offering from two stalwarts of the Seattle jazz scene, guitarist Dave Peterson and bassist Chuck Deardorf. Also present is Hans Teuber, a great, original saxophonist who deserves to be heard more. The results are pleasant and never less than professional. Cables and Teuber glow, especially, on Peterson's "Crazy Heart"?.
Of these two sessions, the pianist is more in his element - bluesy, elegant, swinging, searching, freer to explore all his facets - in Looking for the Light. As this stellar quartet wends its way, unhurriedly, through these compelling themes, it becomes clear why alto master Art Pepper called Cables "Mr. Beautiful"?. As the leader himself explains it, in the midst of a "spiritual awakening"?, he is "looking for that spiritual light from within."?
Looking for the Light
Tracks: 1 Looking for the Light Cables, 2 Klimo Cables, 3 Senorita de Aranjuez, 4 Alice Brown, 5 Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, 6 Tasshi's Night Out, 7 Mr. Baggy Pants, 8 Gymnopedie, 9 E.V.C., 10 Helen's Mothers Song
Personnel: Gary Bartz Alto, Soprano Sax, Victor Lewis Drums, Peter Washington Bass, George Cables Piano
Tracks: 1 Portal, 2 Rhythm Tune, 3 Crazy Heart, 4 Mr. Schmeil, 5 That's the Deal, 6 Blues for Dave, 7 Invitation, 8 Song for Lee, 9 The Last Minute, 10 Ana Maria
Personnel: George Cables Piano, Electric Piano, Chuck Deardorf Bass, Electric Bass, Dave Peterson Guitar, Michael Spiro Percussion, Hans Teuber Saxophone, Alto, Tenor Sax