252

Lee Shaw Trio: Live in Graz

Jeff Dayton-Johnson By

Sign in to view read count
Lee Shaw Trio: Live in Graz Live in Graz gives listeners a chance to catch up with one of the more improbable second acts in jazz: that of eighty-something pianist Lee Shaw. A poised Shaw usefully recounts the biographical details in the accompanying DVD (which is unfortunately somewhat shoddily produced): she acquired a broad musical education in tiny Ada, Oklahoma; later continued that schooling, playing requests in Chicago nightclubs; then, for many years, she backed up "horn players from the city" at clubs in Albany, New York, with her late husband, the drummer Stan Shaw. Along the way, it turns out Shaw was the missing link between Oscar Peterson, who offered her sporadic lessons well into her professional life and John Medeski (later of Medeski, Martin & Wood), who was her student as a Florida adolescent.

Overall, an unusually prosperous living for the jazz world, and not without its flashes of artistry. In Shaw's gracious testimony, however, one detects the faintest trace of regret, of a longing for a different kind of jazz life. For example, Shaw, a prodigious composer for years, never performed her own tunes. Meanwhile, over the years, headline jazz stars—like Lionel Hampton—asked Shaw to join their groups, but she never succumbed to these invitations.

And now, finally, the prodigiously gifted pianist is living that other jazz life, entering the international jazz circuit with this sympathetic trio. This live CD mixes her idiomatic originals in with well-chosen covers, both celebrated and obscure: Ahmad Jamal's "Night Mist Blues," in which Shaw wittily alludes to the set's opener, Billy Taylor's "Easy Walker"; and Leonard Bernstein's "Lonely Town," an affecting solo number from the DVD.

The record reveals Shaw the soloist to be squarely in the Peterson-Medeski lineage, but that hardly begins to describe her gifts. Bold and strong, her playing lavishes attention on the lower and middle ranges of the keyboard, and—metaphorically—on the architectural and emotional resources of the compositions. An emblematic case in point is her solo on Vincent Young's "Street of Dreams," a harmonic edifice carefully constructed, brick by brick. Shaw's impressionist compositions, meanwhile, are song-like, deceptively simple, but with vast musical reserves lurking just beneath the surface.

These are long takes, allowing all three musicians plenty of time to develop ideas in unhurried solos. Bassist Rich Syracuse and drummer Jeff Siegel are well-matched to the leader's strengths: each plays well inside the tradition but with a bracing, percussive boisterousness.

Let's hope that Shaw's second act is a long one: between the growing Shaw songbook and the hundreds of songs by others that the pianist has played hundreds of times, she quite clearly has a lot to communicate to a wider audience.

Track Listing: CD: Easy Walker; Song Without Words; Elegy; Rain Threads; Street of Dreams; Foots; Stan's Song; Night Mist Blues. DVD: Easy Walker; Lonely Town; Crazeology; Blues Eleven; plus interviews.

Personnel: Lee Shaw: piano; Rich Syracuse: bass; Jeff "Siege" Siegel: drums.

Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: ARC - Artists Recording Collective | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


Shop

More Articles

Read LifeCycle CD/LP/Track Review LifeCycle
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Right Up On CD/LP/Track Review Right Up On
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Wanderlust CD/LP/Track Review Wanderlust
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Imagination CD/LP/Track Review Imagination
by Geannine Reid
Published: April 23, 2017
Read Evolution CD/LP/Track Review Evolution
by Greg Simmons
Published: April 23, 2017
Read On A Monday Evening CD/LP/Track Review On A Monday Evening
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 22, 2017
Read "Umbra" CD/LP/Track Review Umbra
by Ian Patterson
Published: December 31, 2016
Read "Play Date" CD/LP/Track Review Play Date
by James Nadal
Published: October 27, 2016
Read "What's Wrong" CD/LP/Track Review What's Wrong
by John Sharpe
Published: December 2, 2016
Read "Across the Universe" CD/LP/Track Review Across the Universe
by Dave Wayne
Published: May 1, 2016
Read "First Set" CD/LP/Track Review First Set
by Roger Farbey
Published: November 29, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!