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On the whole, Jazz Piano at UArts convinced me that, even during a time when the limelight is reserved for a precious few, there is still a helluva lot of great young jazz talent out there, and I can only wish them well in their budding careers. It's great that a school of jazz would produce a CD featuring its students. Thanks go to pianist Don Glanden, who is Division Head of Jazz Studies at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, for producing this album and writing the liner notes.
Jazz Piano at UArts is indeed a fine display of listenable, intelligent and creative renditions of both standards and original compositions by pianists who are labeled "students, but in fact are emerging professionals on the East Coast jazz scene. For example, John Icaro has already appeared on Vivian Mulder's Tranquila disc The Loss of Me. Matt Hochmiller performs frequently in the Philadelphia area and appeared on the Dave Wilson Quartet's Dreambox Media disc My Time. Neil Shah, Mike Frank and Jason Brown also provide creative expositions that go well beyond the connotation of "student.
Technically, all are excellent, though at times they sound a bit awkward on fast runs. Conceptually, they are very advanced and imaginative, at the cutting edge, true to the intent of the music, and consistent in their playing. Each and every one of them is an emerging talent whose development we can look forward to with anticipation.
The most "far out tracks on the album are Jason Brown's original solo piece "Free #2 and Neil Shah's rendition of Monk's "Well You Needn't. Both cuts show great improvisatory skill and a willingness to go out on a limb. Chick Corea's "Fiesta, performed by John Icaro, and Corea's "Spain, by Jason Brown, reflect a deep appreciation of Corea's style. Mike Frank's version of the Rodgers and Hart standard "Bewitched is romantic in the best sense, influenced by Keith Jarrett's introspective approach. All the tracks are highly listenable and could be recommended simply as fine jazz piano music which one could enjoy for the sake of its own pleasure.
Jazz Piano at UArts is available by contacting the University of the Arts Music Department at at 215-717-6342. As far as I know, it is not available in stores or internet venues.
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