This album is another entry in Chiaroscuro's Steinway Hall series, a collection that sits at the same high level as Concord Jazz' Maybeck Hall series. Featured on this session is pianist John Eaton who has been performing in the Washington, D.C. area for more than 50 years but who have attained the level of national acclaim which is rightfully his because of his considerable pianistic skill.
On his third album for Chiaroscuro, most of the 18 compositions are from the pens of George and Ira Gershwin. But other major contributors to popular piano literature are represented as well, particularly works by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler. The outcome is a compelling, attractive play list, made even more attractive in the hands of this master interpreter of American Popular Song. Eaton plays a piano like one rarely hears it these days. He is no minimalist, using all the keys. On "That Old Black Magic" his left hand plays the melody while his right engages in delicate trills. This is a throw back to the days of Art Tatum, Erroll Garner, Teddy Wilson and Earl Hines. One also hears snippets of Fats Waller along the way. Too few of today's jazz pianists could carry this off or, sadly, even be interested in trying. Eaton has played this music many times before and over the years has conceived distinctive dimensions to the way he approaches each of these melodies. "I Got Rhythm" is bright and bouncy, but replete with complex voicing, including some rag time that Eaton sneaks in. "Willow Weep for Me" gets about as romantic as this classic can be played. Starting off with the verse, the rendition of "A Foggy Day" is poignant, delicate and a bit off center. He even does a little singing in an almost monotone like voice on "One for My Baby (and One More for the Road)".
Engaging pianism far exceeding what one has a right to expect and what one hears these days is the hallmark of this set making it a CD that listeners will revisit time and time again. Recommended.
Let's Fall in Love; For You, For Me, Forever More; Willow Weep for Me; That old Black Magic; A Foggy Day; One for My Baby*; Love Walked in; My Shining Hour; S`Wonderful; When the Sun Comes Out; I Got Rhythm; Can't We Be Friends?; Wizard of Oz Medley; Paper Moon; I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues; Oh! Lady Be Good; I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise; Somebody Loves Me