Just like the universe, New York Electric Piano (NYEP) is expanding. The original trio of pianist Pat Daugherty, bassist Tim Givens, and drummer Aaron Comess has doubled, adding 3 New York musicians: Leon Gruenbaum on his unique instrument the Samchillian, Till Behler on saxes and flutes, and the singer Deanna Kirk. After three instrumental releases that probed the Fender Rhodes electric piano sound their new release, King Mystery
, features vocals, acoustic piano, and a diverse set of Daugherty originals that embrace jazz’s past while exploring its future.
It all began as NYEP played out their 2007 release Blues in Full Moon. Leon Gruenbaum, keyboardist with Vernon Reid and James "Blood" Ulmer, began showing up at the bands gigs. "Leon is one of my favorite players and I invited him to bring his ax and sit in," Pat says. "He did and has never left!" In the early '90s Pat and Leon shared the piano chair at vocalist Deanna Kirk's NY restaurant, a jazz spot that was the center of a burgeoning scene.
Then Till Behler, a tenor/flutist known for his recording work with the Brazilian Girls, showed up at a Cutting Room gig and sat in. "I heard Till one night at NuBlu and he had a fierce tone," Pat recalls. "I knew his sound was right for the band." Till had played at Deanna's with Aaron and Tim in the late saxophonist Arnie Lawrence's band. The fans loved Till that night and he became the next new member.
That same night, singer Deanna Kirk, who has performed with Eartha Kitt and Cecil Taylor, performed Pat's song "Why Are We Here?" with the band. The tune previously had bossa nova feel but the band swung it that night and the crowd was mesmerized. It got Pat thinking about adding vocals to the new album. "I was listening to some old big band records and I was intrigued with how the vocalist doesn’t come in till the end of the tune," Daugherty says, in explanation of his inspiration for "Temple Tantrum," a paean to dance. Finally Pat invited the drummer Mal Stein to add some soundscapes to the record. "Mal added a beautiful layer that confirmed the misterioso quality of the music."