How do you rate a jazz album? Is it about strength and depth of improvisation"the sound of surprise," as the late, great journalist Whitney Balliet might say? Is it about structural intricacy, harmonic integrity, rhythmic feel, and melodic communication? Or is it musical ingenuity and individual personalities at play that help to make or break a record? In truth, all of those ideas can factor into the equation, and Peace In Time does well by all of those metrics.
This septet offering from pianist Steven Feifke is a well-balanced effort that doesn't put too much stock in any single idea, device, or sound. There are plenty of impressive solo feats, but this is hardly a blowing session; intricate lines and hairpin turns can be found throughout, but the music isn't shackled by the arrangements; and Feifke has no problem presenting his personality as composer and instrumentalist while still leaving plenty of room for his band mates to shine.
Peace In Time is a date built around originals, but it's the familiar fareFeifke's arrangements of Thelonious Monk's "Evidence," Horace Silver's "Nica's Dream," and Vernon Duke's "Autumn In New York"that attune the ears to Feifke's world. Pianistic declamations usher "Evidence" in, the front line joins in to bring the broken melody line to life, the ensemble work is crisp and tight as can be, and Feifke and trumpeter Benny Benack III make their mark(s) when they blow; "Nica's Dream" illustrates how Feifke can take something so familiar and stretch it's very nature nature without stressing or compromising its core; and the spry and cheery, Brazilian-tinged "Autumn In New York" is a breath of fresh air, as Benack's flugelhorn coasts atop the band.
On each of the aforementioned songs, and on every single original number, there are solos and surface elements to admire, be they funky, fiery or friendly. But that doesn't tell the whole story. Feifke packs so many subtle things into these songs, so each listen reveals something new. He artfully weaves fleeting riffs, background figures, and twists into his own designs, giving his septet plenty to work with. But the music doesn't collapse under the weight of intricacy. Feifke is an arranger-composer with good sense, always cognizant of how much is enough and how much is too much. He's a composer who's found his own sound, a pianist with a firm command of the instrument, and an all-around monster talent with a bright future ahead.
Evidence; Am I Still There For You? (Intro); Am I Still There For You?; Nica's Dream; Song For Ben And Gidi; Wollongong; 3:23AM; Autumn In New York; The Missing Feeling II; The Coast; Second Wind; Peace In Time.
Steven Feifke: piano; Benny Benack III: trumpet, flugelhorn; Andrew Gould: alto saxophone; Chad Lefkowitz-Brown: tenor saxophone; Alex Wintz: guitar; Raviv Markowitz: bass; Jimmy Macbride: drums.