For some time, pianist Dan Cray and his cohortsbassist Clark Sommers and drummer Greg Wyser-Prattehave been perfecting the language of the trio on a number of fine releases. Over Here Over Heard is the fourth album from this audacious working unit, which continues to find new magic in old tunes while throwing in some fresh sounds for good measure.
The album was recorded live at Pops For Champagne Chicago, which gives it a nice intimacy, and things kicks off smoothly with a rolling version of Harold Arlen's classic "That Old Black Magic," where Wyser-Pratte delivers an intense introduction that sets the pace for the rest of the tune.
"At Least" is the sole Cray original, and it's a shame the pianist didn't leave more space for his own writing. Cray has a gift for creating memorable tunes and "At Least" is a perfect example, starting as a ballad only to pick up steam and evolve with a perfect, melodic hook.
Another album highlight is the trio's reading of Antonio Carlos Jobim's sadly underrated "Useless Landscape." Sommers' thoughtful, three-minute introduction is almost a world unto itself. Then the rest of the band sets in slowly with rattling percussion and piano figures, light as butterflies, and before the tune is over it has evolved into a tight, mid-tempo groove.
Just as Over Here Over Heard starts with an established classic it ends with one. Henry Mancini's "Moon River" provides the blueprint for the finale, the trio once again shifting between lyrical introspection and heated improvisation. A grand ending to an elegant album that is not afraid to mix the established, the obscure and the new.
Track Listing: That Old Black Magic; At Least; Useless Landscape; Barbara; More Than You Know; Hammer Head; Moon River.
Personnel: Dan Cray: piano; Clark Sommers: bass; Greg Wyser-Pratte: drums.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.