The next time you're hunkered down in a hotel lounge and you encounter a solo pianist working through some of the requisite covers of standards and pop songs, do yourself a favor and strike up a conversation with the working musician, and drop a dollar or five in the tip jar. Odds are they're in a get-the-rent-paid mode, and their talent has far more depth and breadth than is readily apparent from the expected, ususally bland fare of the lounge venue. You can bet on this, because Gilad Barkan, the young pianist originally from Israel, educated here at Berklee, has put in his share of time in hotel lounges; and he is – judging from Modulation, his debut, a first rate jazz talent.
A couple of degrees of separation come into play for me: Harvey Wirht's name on the cover is the reason I picked the CD up from a pile. Wirht holds down the drummer's seat for the marvelous and underappreciated ten piece Either/Orchestra, and I'm finding anything with his contribution is worth a listen. Another degree: Wirht, as well as pianist Barkan, played on the new (to me) guitarist Issi Rosen's marvelous new CD, Dark Beauty, (New Step Music, 2003).
On Moduation Barkan has put together a set a engaging tunes – seven of his own compositions, plus classics by Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock, Ellington and Van Heusen and Cahn, for a piano trio outing that is a gripping musical experience from start to finish.
Barkan's style leans toward the percussive end of things, with bright overtones and an always assertive rhythmic drive. His bossa nova-ish "Amaravati Devi is Getting Married" explores conflicting but predominantly positive emotions, with a lovely, wandering melody line; and he tackles Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance" with pensive aplomb before he moves into near-sacred territory – Bill Evans' "Waltz for Debby" – that in Barkan's hands is mostly reverent, but also loose and free swinging; a great song in great hands with these three players.
A fine debut, a trio outing that holds your interest and then some from start to finish.