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George Cables: Icons and Influences

Jack Bowers By

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When a jazz musician has been around as long as pianist George Cables, and has seen, heard and performed with so many other world-class musicians, such interactions are bound to leave a lasting impression, and on the trio date Icons and Influences Cables warmly salutes a number of those who have helped frame his musical persona and escorted him along a journey of wonder and discovery that has enabled him to become the superbly talented artist he is today.

As most listeners would assume, several of Cables' influences are fellow pianists, and those remembered here include Cedar Walton, Bill Evans, Mulgrew Miller, Dave Brubeck and Duke Ellington. While Nat Cole, acknowledged with "The Very Thought of You," was also a pianist, Cables says he was inspired more by Cole's vocal talents, along with those of Tony Bennett, on Ray Noble's venerable standard. "Nature Boy," he writes, was prompted not by Cole but by tenor saxophonist John Coltrane's instrumental version. Other tenors represented are Benny Golson ("Blue Heart") and Joe Henderson ("Isotope") as well as vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson ("Little B's Poem"). Cables plumbs his own early years with "Happiness," the "first tune [he] wrote" while in his early 20s, and Trinidadian Lord Kitchener's "Mo' Pan," one of the many calypso tunes Cables played or heard while growing up in Brooklyn and Queens, NY.

Whatever the source, the salient point is that every one of these tunes shines like a polished gem in Cables' masterful hands. Tempos are flawless, interpretations admirable, ad-libs smooth and persuasive, the framework lucid and sunny yet emphatic when need be, as on "Isotope" or "Mo' Pan." As for the comfort zone, it is spacious, thanks to the unwavering resilience of bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Victor Lewis whose cozy shelter is always close at hand. In every instance, Cables lays bare the unique essence of his role models, and nowhere is this more apparent than on Brubeck's "The Duke," Evans' "Very Early" or his own compositions, "Cedar Walton" and "Mulgrew Miller."

Dedications aside, this is a splendid trio session led by one of the jazz world's more proficient and accessible contemporary pianists. Full credit to Cables, Douglas and Lewis for a job well done.

Track Listing: Cedar Walton; Farewell Mulgrew; Happiness; The Duke; Come Sunday; Little B’s Poem; Nature Boy; Very Early; Isotope; The Very Thought of You; Mo’ Pan; Blue Heart.

Personnel: George Cables: piano; Dezron Douglas: bass; Victor Lewis: drums.

Title: Icons and Influences | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: HighNote Records

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