Mike Bardash, who has been playing piano since age five and performing in and around the New York City area for more than a quarter-century, gets right down to "Brass Tacks" on Polygon, which, as far as can be determined, is the first full-length album he has recorded as leader of a group, in this case the Mike Bardash Quintet. The bracing studio date, for which Bardash composed ten of the eleven selections, touches a lot of bases, from bop to blues, burners to ballads, well-grooved swing to funk (and even a touch of Latin), during much of which the leader is content to play a supporting role, earmarking ample blowing space for the capable front line of tenor saxophonist Deji Coker and trumpeter Kenyatta Beasley.
While there are times when the music may be reminiscent of Blue Note and Prestige Records' hard-bop albums in the '50s and '60s, there are others when it moves the timeline forward to embrace several of today's more innovative genres. Hard on the heels of Bardash's funky "Brass Tacks" and romantic "Late in the Game," Coker takes his turn as composer / arranger with "D's Blues," on which a graceful solo by Bardash precedes a typically nimble edict by Kenyatta and Coker's assertive tenor solo (think Jerry Bergonzi, Michael Brecker, Joe Lovano and others). Bardash's emphatic "Impulse" leads in turn to his seven-part "Polygon Suite," whose bright, inclusive themes march along a tantalizing path that leads to the closing "Sugar High Rondo."
Percussionist Bongo Bruno adds weight to the opening movement, "Kenny's Klave," which precedes the buoyant "10 to 12" and the peaceful serenade "And Then What." Bardash's electric piano is featured on the brief interlude "Leading Edge," Coker's dancing flute on "Around the Edges" (which he also arranged, complete with pastoral sound effects). Bardash's electric piano holds center stage again on the twenty-eight-second "Trailing Edge" before everyone spreads his wings on the sweetly appetizing "Sugar High Rondo." Bassist Gene Torres and drummer Tony Lewis team with Bardash to provide a sturdy and inflexible framework, as they do on every number.
An upbeat and altogether likable album by a group of seasoned musicians whose names may not be well-known but whose talents are readily apparent.
Brass Tacks; Late in the Game; D’s Blues; Impulse; The Polygon Suite (Kenny’s Klave / 10 to 12 / And Then What / Leading Edge / Around the Edges / Trailing Edge / Sugar High Rondo).
Mike Bardash: piano, electric piano; Kenyatta Beasley: trumpet; Deji Coker: tenor saxophone, flute; Gene Torres: bass; Tony Lewis: drums; Bongo Bruno: percussion (5).