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Susan Chen’s name is new to my eyes, but her piano stylings are comfortably seasoned to my ears. She is a pianist with a delicate graceful touch and plenty of vibrant swing. Her prior association with saxophonist Warne Marsh yielded one record Posthumous (Interplay), but her approach is nothing like Marsh’s former employer Lennie Tristano. She prefers warmth to Tristano’s distance.
This date, recorded in San Francisco this past April, offers the classic trio approach to jazz. Thoughts of early Bill Evans are evoked, but I know why I love this record. Chen reminds me so much of Hank Jones. Her use of a restrained balance and light attack (like Jones) says simple melodies are the best way to convey feel. She takes Jerome Kern’s “The Way You Look Tonight” at a swift pace. Her once around the block driving both one and two-handed pauses then pounces on a bop improvisation that seeps unadulterated joy. Same with Cole Porter’s “Easy To Love.” Plenty of familiar things here to draw you into Chen’s world; Johnny Mercer, Sammy Cahn, Hoagy Carmichael, and Rogers and Hart. She even goes at Oscar Peterson’s “Tricotism” with the two-handed acrobatics familiar to Peterson fans. There’s plenty here to savor including bassist Mark Kennedy’s composition “Two Bit Tango” and Jobim’s “Once I Loved” for some South American flavor. This must be a working trio as Chen, Kennedy, and drummer Tom Hassett negotiate each track as all-to-familiar friends. The disc ends with the Chen original “Emperor’s Old Clothes,” a blues that walks a late night line where you are trying to sneak back into your house after everyone is asleep, your shoes are off, you’ve had a bit too much to drink, but man you got that rhythm echoing in you soul. Beautiful Record. Find Susan Chen at Evander Music .
Track Listing: Too Marvelous For Words; One Morning In May; Tricotism; I Should Care; Easy To Love; Don
As a kid, my mom told me I'd like jazz. I thought she was nuts. Then I went to hear Cannonball Adderley (with Nat Adderley, George Duke, Walter Booker, Roy McCurdy and Airto) and everything changed. Yeah, mom knows best.