Any good band, and this trio in particular, can be likened to a puzzle, with the players complementing one another and coming together to form a full picture. According to pianist Mitchel Forman, the listener is the final piece of that puzzle, completing the entire idea and experience behind creating and sharing music. After hearing this album, it's hard to argue with that.
Puzzle pulls the listener in from the very beginninga medley of Keith Jarrett's "Death And The Flower" and Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love?" that's as organic as can be. The music shifts readily and smoothly, opening on mystery-laced passages and moving to more energetic environs where fiery Latin-esque grooves and up swing make appearances. In those eight-plus minutes, the musical bonds between Forman, bassist Kevin Axt, and drummer Steve Hass are cemented.
From there, the trio shifts to a more reflective mode with a take on "Alfie," settles into a pleasing groove on "Passing Smile," and doles out something serene yet curious with the title track. Each piece offers its own gifts, but all speak to the chemistry and strengths of these men. The journey continues with Charles Mingus' bluesy "Nostalgia In Times Square," a number supported by a shuffling beat; "Ten Cent Wings," a flowing wonder that surprises by gaining traction and taking shape on more than one occasion, only to loosen up and flow freely again; "Bounce," a tune connected to rhythm changes that starts as a racing swinger and downshifts toward the end; and "Time After Time," a twenty-first century take on that jazz-adopted number that's miles from Miles Davis or Cyndi Lauper yet loyal to the melodic heart of the piece.
The final four numbersan inviting take on Jeff Richman's "My Old Room" and three Forman originals of varying temperamentsonly confirm what's already been established: this trio is one fluid, flexible, and fierce entity. Observing the way this outfit pieces together this music is a priceless experience.
Death And The Flower/What Is This Thing Called Love; Alfie; Passing Smile; Puzzle; Nostalgia In Times Square; Ten Cent Wings; Bounce; Time After Time; My Old Room; Cartoons; Nimbus; Old Faces In Windows
Mitchel Forman: piano,organ, melodica, synthesizer; Kevin Axt: bass; Steve Hass: drums.