Every now and again an album comes along by a musician you have never heard of which knocks you sideways and, having done so, picks you up and makes you feel better about the world. Such an album is pianist Andrew Nixon's self-released debut, In Congruence.
Nixon, we learn from his website, is a resident of Buffalo, NY, where, since graduating from the university with a master's in music theory in 2012, he has become something of a local hero and leads the piano trio heard on this album. Nixon comes with no celebrity endorsements, but his album includes an insightful liner note from pianist Paul Hofmann, who teaches at the Eastman School of Music down the road at Rochester, NY.
A glowingly lyrical player, who never plays two notes when one will do, Nixon brings a relaxed swing to the nine diverse originals on the album. If he reminds you of any pianist it is likely to be Bill Evans in his prime, although there are glancing references to Chick Corea and Sonny Clark. Evans is evoked right at the start, on the brief, classically inclined "Prelude" and makes himself heard clearly again on track three, "Ruby's Waltz," which wears its debt to Evans' "Waltz For Debby" on its sleeve. Corea crops up on the theme for "Circulation" and Clark's easy going hard-bop drive is to the fore on the closer, "Line For Sonny."
Nixon's composing is as seemingly effortless as his playing, which makes light of what are often quite complex tunes. Time signatures and tempos shift without fanfare in several of them and some of the song forms are quietly novel, too. Throughout, bassist Ed Croft and drummer Joe Goretti provide empathic accompaniment and contribute solos. A lovely, uplifting album.
Prelude, 7-8-9, Ruby's Waltz, Anticipation, Circulation, I'll Remember
Felix/Incongruence, Blues For Audrey, I'll Keep Trying, Line For Sonny.
In addition to writing and editing for All About Jazz, Chris is editor of the British style/culture/history magazine Jocks&Nerds and consultant Afrobeat historian for Google Arts & Culture and Partisan/Knitting Factory Records.