Ambition is certainly in no short supply for pianist Laura Dubin, as evidenced by this two-disc live recording from the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival in 2016. On 21 cuts, she not only surveys an exceptional range of jazz piano styles, from stride to bebop to modal; she also brings in the classical tradition, with jazz-inflected pieces from Beethoven and Mozart (among others) making appearances. There's something here for everyone, and her appreciative audience at the Rochester festival inspires her to carry out this challenging program with the help of her skilled counterparts Antonio H. Guerrero (drums) and Kieran Hanlon (bass).
Dubin possesses a confident touch and an especially forceful left hand, which provides percussive and rhythmic intensity to a lot of her improvisations, particularly noticeable on "Thunderstorm," one of her own originals on the first disc, where she brings a McCoy Tyner-like drive to the track. At other moments her acknowledged debt to Oscar Peterson is apparent, as on the aptly titled "Ode to O.P." and the bluesy "Doc Z."
The most intriguing aspect to Dubin's musicianship is her ability as an arranger, however. Figuring out how to merge Ravel with Rodgers and Hammerstein is no small feat, but she pulls it off on the fourth cut, with the prelude from "Le Tombeau de Couperin" segueing smoothly into "My Favorite Things." She performs similar sleights-of-hand elsewhere: with Debussy/Gershwin ("Reflets dans l'eau"/"Our Love is Here to Stay") or Ellington/Chopin ("Prelude to a Kiss"/"Minute Waltz"). Rhythmic and stylistic shifts abound in these pairings, and Guerrero and Hanlon's ability to transition sympathetically from one idiom to the next is the trio's real strength.
While the expansive program is indeed remarkable, it will be interesting to see if Dubin's future recordings can channel her talents a bit more narrowly. Doing so might enable her to develop a more distinctive personal voice, as that still seems to be eluding her amidst the variety of influences on display here. In any event, Dubin's originals are consistently thoughtful and inventive, so there's good reason to expect her to continue to make an impact in the years to come.
This Could Be the Start of Something Big; Thunderstorm ; Ode to O.P. ;
Prelude from Le Tombeau de Couperin / My Favorite Things; Prelude to a Kiss /
Waltz Op. 64 No. 1 "Minute Waltz" ; I Got Rhythm; Handful of Keys ; Sonata
No. 8 "Pathetique"; Green Arrow;
Doc Z; Anxiety.
Something's Cookin' ; Waltz for Bill / It's De-Lovely; Invention for Nina; New
York; No Mystery / Now He Sings Now He Sobs / Spain; Kelly Green; On Fire;
Reflets Dans L'eau / Our Love Is Here to Stay; Sonata No. 11 "Rondo Alla
Laura Dubin: piano; Kieran Hanlon: bass; Antonio H. Guerrero: drums.
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