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Piano Times Seven

Jerome Wilson By

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Every jazz pianist plays in their own individual style. These recent albums demonstrate the way seven particular players approach the instrument.

Laurent Nicoud
Outline
QFTF
2020

This is a solo disc by a pianist whose background in classical music shows through the formal drama of his approach to more improvisational work. Laurent Nicoud has an icy but thoughtful touch to his playing that gives weight to each individual note even when he's working through agitated up-tempo themes like "Louffoque" and the charging "Groove In E-flat." Some of his compositions, like "In front of a tree and a light," drift through a haze of dreamy impressionism. Others, like "Weird Spaces" and "Far Ahead," recall Ran Blake in their use of fragmentary melodies and silence. "9-05-2018" shows that Nicoud has a knack for slippery sophistication and grand dramatic flourishes as well.

Sukyung Kim
Lilac Hill
Self Produced
2020

Korean-born, Brooklyn-based Sukyung Kim is the only pianist in this review leading a group larger than a trio. She works with a front line of alto sax and guitar that gives a pleasantly mellow energy to her music. Paul JuBong Lee's guitar and Ethan Helm's alto melt together beautifully on the swooping flow on "Summer Days" with Kim's Fender Rhodes piano glowing in the margins. The leader's acoustic piano sparkles on "Stargzaers" as Helm blows with a harder focus. Best of all is the gentle electric waltzing of "California" where the rhythm section of bassist Luca Alemanno and drummer Jongkuk Kim gently sways along with Kim's electric piano as Helm glides on top and Lee adds a buzzing rock guitar turn at the close.

Lynne Arriale Trio
Chimes Of Freedom
Challenge Records
2020

Lynne Arriale's piano work draws from the firm chord playing of the McCoy Tyner school but in a slightly quieter context. On this CD she turns her attention to the current political climate, writing original pieces with titles like "Lady Liberty," "The Dreamers" and "Hope" as well as performing covers of Bob Dylan's "Chimes Of Freedom" and Paul Simon's "American Tune."

With bassist Jasper Somsen and drummer E.J. Strickland driving her trio, Arriale's music surges with force and conviction, eloquently conveying messages of optimism and purpose. She wails sprightly blues on "The Whole Truth" and joyously mixes a calypso beat with classical motifs on "Reunion." Then there are the two older songs, both sung by K.J. Denhert. Dylan's "Chimes Of Freedom" is played with gravity and sung with understated grace while Simon's Watergate-era "American Tune" is movingly heartfelt.

Claude Diallo Situation
I Found A New Home
Dot Time
2020

Claude Diallo's piano playing is steeped in the blues and gospel. His trio revels in the up-tempo gospel-funk of this CD's title track and on "One Last Prayer For You," bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Andy Bauer underline his soulful groove with a hypnotic pulse that makes the group sound like one of Ahmad Jamal's trios.

Elsewhere Diallo shows his lighter side. On "Yours" he delicately rolls and pounds over a stiff hip hop beat and on "Leo Mathieu" he quietly mixes blues with classical impressionism. He runs through a folkish Pat Metheny-like melody on "Nina's Theme" while Curtis and Bauer keep the rhythm constantly moving. "McCoy Meets Monk" is mostly Tyner-ish runs with a Monk-ish rhumba beat tossed in and a good representation of the kind of solid, limber rhythm work this trio is excellent at playing.

Andy Milne and Unison
The reMission
Sunnyside Records
2020

Andy Milne's first trio recording features his own compositions bookended by subdued versions of classic McCoy Tyner and Benny Golson tunes. This is a true trio recording with bassist John Hébert and drummer Clarence Penn equal partners in the music, often setting the table for Milne's contributions. Penn's strutting percussive gallop buoys "Drive By -The Fall" as Milne repeats and circles through classical motifs while thick bass drones and whispery brush work create a wintry atmosphere for the brooding piano of "Anything About Anything."

Everything is not dark and introspective here. "Dancing On The Savannah" has Milne running chords over a lively bass figure and interacting with Penn's punchy drum work. On "Geewa" the trio tosses around a bubbling funk melody, Milne dancing on the top while Penn and Hebert toss the beat back and forth like they were playing catch.

Day Dream
Originals
Corner Store Jazz
2020

The trio Day Dream combines long-time occasional partners, bassist Drew Gress and drummer Phil Haynes, with pianist Steve Rudolph. This set presents all original material from the three musicians. Rudolph's taste for melody and beauty, best heard in his solo piece "Zebra," mixes well with Gress' and Haynes' penchant for slightly irregular accompaniment. This is heard in Gress' compositions, "Afterward" and "Vesper," as the subtle displacements of the bass and drums give an uneasy cast to Rudolph's strongly romantic playing. On Haynes' pieces, "Spell" and "Beloved Refracted," elaborate bass and drums lines take the lead while Rudolph bounces and drops in chords where he can. The pianist's sense of surging beauty dominates his bright bossa nova, "Bossa 21" and his lovely ballad, "Last Lullaby" and gets to shine through the decorative cymbal patterns of "Paul— Christian." This trio's blend of the familiar and the unusual sounds good together.

John Finbury
Quatro
Green Flash Music
2020

John Finbury wrote the music for this CD but he does not actually play on it. That is left to the trio of pianist Chano Dominguez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Antonio Sanchez with occasional help from vocalist Magos Herrera.

The CD celebrates musical diversity by mixing Spanish and Mexican melodies in with American jazz. Dominguez' playing is rich and elaborate, touching on flamenco on "Independence Day" and old formal Cuban dances on "Salon Jardin" with Patitucci and Sanchez very supportive. The bassist makes particularity strong statements on both tracks. Herrera's intimate singing style adds a more sensual note to the music as she coos through "La Madre De Todos Los Errores" and "Comenzar" in Spanish. She shows the same exotic beauty in English on 'All The Way To The End" with piano wrapped snugly around her voice. Dominguez, Pattituci and Sanchez are excellent throughout but really burst out on the closing "Romp," where after an explosive Sanchez introduction, the trio settles into a funky New Orleans shuffle groove with Dominguez adding some flavorful Spanish influences.

Tracks and Personnel

Outline

Tracks: Voice for Ages; Bird's Levitation; Ostinato #3; In front of a tree and a light; Louffoque; Far Ahead; Outline; Weird Spaces; Ocean; Groove in E-flat; 9-05-2018; One in E major.

Personnel: Laurent Nicoud: piano.

Lilac Hill

Tracks: Lilac Hill; Stargazers; Bluebird; Summer Days; California.

Personnel: Sukyung Kim: piano, rhodes; Ethan Helm: alto saxophone; Paul JuBong Lee: guitar; Luca Alemanno: bass; Jongkuk Kim: drums.

Chimes Of Freedom

Tracks: Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child; Journey; The Dreamers; 3 Million Steps; Hope; The Whole Truth; Lady Liberty; Reunion; Chimes Of Freedom; American Tune.

Personnel: Lynne Arriale: piano; Jasper Somsen: double bass; E.J. Strickland: drums; K.J. Denhert: vocals.

I Found A New Home

Tracks: One Last Prayer For You; Nina's Theme; I Found A New Home; Animation's Contemplation; Leo Mathieu; Yours; McCoy Meets Monk.

Personnel: Claude Diallo: piano; Luques Curtis: bass; Andy Bauer: drums.

The reMission

Tracks: Passion Dance; Resolution; Winter Palace; Vertical On Opening Night; Drive By -The Fall; Anything About Anything; Dancing On The Savannah; The Call; Geewa; Sad To Say.

Personnel: Andy Milne: piano; John Hebert: bass; Clarence Penn: drums.

Originals

Tracks: Zebra (for Claude); Wedding Waltz; Beloved Refracted; Afterward; Vesper; Last Lullaby; Spell; Bossa 21 (for Katie); Paul -Christian; Let Fly.

Personnel: Drew Gress: bass; Phil Haynes: drums; Steve Rudolph: piano.

Quatro

Tracks: Llegara El Dia; Independence Day; La Madre De Todos Los Errores; All The Way To The End; Comenzar; Salon Jardin; Romp.

Personnel: Magos Herrera: vocals; Chano Dominguez: piano; John Patitucci: bass; Antonio Sanchez: drums.

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