When an artist records music less than two years after losing his wife of nearly three decades to pancreatic cancer, it is generally assumed that the resulting album will have an overall melancholic, funereal sound. This is not the case however, for pianist George Cables. My Muse is less an elegy for love, and more of a celebration of its existence.
This is understandable though, after listening through Cables' preceding four decades of music. A pianist who often seems to hold little patience for slow paced, somber ballads, he tends to find an almost magical way to add tenderness to a song while playing at blistering speed. While he never reaches the jaw dropping intensity here that he was fervently spurred to by Art Pepper or Dexter Gordon during the 1970s, neither does it seem to be his goal on what is largely a concept album; a dedication to love and love lost. To, in his words, a "partner and soulmate of 28 years."
George Cables begins the album with a brief solo track, aptly titled "Lullaby," which is one of three on the album which he wrote specifically for his late wife during their years together. The others, "Helen's Song" and "My Muse," are both beautiful and lively compositions. The former is both catchy and instantly recognisable, and has become something of a staple during his live performances. He also includes one other original titled "But He Knows," a mid-tempo composition which according to his liner notes explores the theme of "mysteries in our lives that we can't understand or solve ourselves." The album also includes "Hey, It's Me You're Talkin' To," a song written by drummer Victor Lewis, who joins his trio for a fourth time. This is Cables' first album featuring bassist Essiet Essiet, and the trio's chemistry is apparent; there is little doubt that these three musicians are comfortable working together in this format.
The rest of the songs on My Muse are comprised of interpretations of songs whose titles and sounds fit well with the overall theme of the album. While he tends to simmer down his more wild, passionate turns at the piano for warmth and tenderness on this release, George Cables' sound is still recognisable, and My Muse stands out as a touching concept album in his lengthy and impressive discography.
Lullaby; You're My Everything; You Taught My Heart To Sing; Helen's Song; My Muse; My One
And Only Love; But He Knows; The Way We Were; My Old Flame; Hey, It's Me You're Talkin' To;
I Loves You Porgy.
George Cables: piano; Essiet Essiet: bass; Victor Lewis: drums.