It goes without saying that 2020, year one of the global pandemic, was oppressive and overwhelming at times. Nearly everyone in their individual isolation came to recognize what has been lost and, hopefully, identify the resilience of the human spirit. One could argue the hardest hit were musicians, where touring and performing for an audience, and even recording opportunities were unavailable. But there is always hope, and that resilience cannot be suppressed. Exhibit #1 is (pentimento) by Chicago improvising artist Matt Piet.
While he had to shelve his trio and quartet plus participation in the group Four Letter Words due to the pandemic, he had the piano to keep him company. While solo piano recordings from Fred HerschSongs From Home (Palmetto, 2020) and Brad MehldauSuite: April 2020 (Nonesuch, 2020) give the distinct impression they were performing with an audience (at least in mind), Piet's (pentimento) is directed towards himself. Recorded in a single day in June, Piet presents three layers, three performances overdubbed onto each other. These fifteen brief piquant tracks are as much reminiscent of Bill Evans and Lennie Tristano's overdubbed solo sessions as they are of Cecil Taylor's music.
Piet recorded each layer without listening back or returning to the previous layers. The result is an internal dialogue, which often models our busy monkey-minds, as the Buddhists deem them. His "alt man" chases itself with scrambling finger exercises planting a flag of notes upon a hill. Same for the chase of "held hostage" where Duke Ellington's "C Jam Blues" can be heard over the commotion of the other two layers. Elsewhere, the piano's insides are mined for haunting textures as on "hands of time," which resonates as much in your chest as it does in your ears. The solitude of "plod on as one" and "to elijah" are two poignant and achingly beautiful improvised pieces. By recording each layer in this spontaneous manner, Piet's memory and instinctual retention of emotion fuel this performance. The listener or end-user are secondary to the artist's memento. We are almost a voyeur here, and thankful to be given this glimpse.
Only a Phase; Alt Man; Swipe Left; Hands of Time; A (whole) Nother Thing; Fluster-Cuck; 750 ml; Held
Hostage; Danse Macabre; Incensed; to Elijah; Say On; The Power and the Freedom; Memento Mori; Plod On As