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Larry Ham's solo release, Just Me, Just You, introduces a pianist well on his way to becoming a jazz master. He's got the touch, the intensity and the intelligence, and he's as good a soloist as an accompanist, as his recordings with the Earl May and Dave Glasser quartets attest. Just Me, Just You provides all the evidence required to cover the solo terrain, with a line-up of familiar tunes and three originals. This is a swinging, thoughtful set of music that more than satisfies repeated and careful listening.
His left hand on "Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered" and "The Ring" demonstrates more than a simple timekeeper's touch or conception: it's a collaborator in Ham's approach to the tune's interpretation. The subtle modulation of dynamics and the rhythmic variations are typical of Ham's level of sophistication, a refined level beyond the reach of most of his contemporaries. He's a pianist with deep jazz and classical resources and exquisite technique.
Ham's bluesy "Ridin' the Blues" does suggest limitations to his current range. A quibble perhaps, considering the entire release, but certainly Hank Jones would be a lesser master without the blues fully within his emotional range. Overall, Just Me, Just You provides an hour's worth of evidence that there's much to look forward to with this subtle pianist. How good he will become appears to be an open question.
I love jazz because it mixes intellect and emotion in a very spontaneous way.
I was first exposed to jazz by liberating a Coltrane and a Pharoah Sanders record from a friend in NYC and listening to them over and over until I got it.
My advice to new listeners is you have to take the time to listen to some jazz tunes a number of times until it starts to make sense.