Pianist Leslie Pintchik, an adept interpreter of American Songbook classics and a composer of beautifully melodic tunes, emerged on the jazz scene in 2004 with the trio set So Glad to Be Here
(Ambient Records). AAJer John Kelman, in his review of the disc, wrote of her inhabiting a "dangerously occupied middle ground, [with] a trick up her sleeve...Satoshi Takeishi."
Pintchik pulls Takeishi out of that sleeve again on five of the nine tracks, along with drummer Mark Dodge and bassist Scott Hardy, in an enhanced piano trio mode for the first of the two "quartets." The second grouping drops Takeishi and adds the in-demand saxophonist Steve Wilson.
Pintchik lined up the tunes in similar fashion on both CDs, opening with a couple of familiar classics, followed by a bunch of engaging originals, with one tune from bassist Hardy slipped into the mix before closing with more familiarity, with a twist. Quartets
starts out with an oddly dark-hued take on the normally jaunty (often too jaunty) "Happy Days Are Here Again." She has re-harmonized the tune, giving it an introspective and laid-back groove, featuring Takeishi's nuanced splashes, subtle knocks and tinkles, and Scott Hardy's beautifully melodic bass lines. The same quartet gives "Too Close For Comfort"from the 1956 Broadway musical Mr. Wonderful
a light-stepping Brazilian tint before they trot out Pintchik's original, "A Simpler Time."
Pintchik's own tunes, beginning with "A Simpler Time," further her explorations in lovely, lyrical melodicism; and in fluent jazz group conversation, with her comping behind another Hardy bass solo just a delicate whisper.
"Not So Fast" brings saxophonist Steve Wilson into the fold, inserting a bit of a tangy, bluesy edge to the ensemble sound on his alto, and then an astringent bite with his soprano on "Over Easy."
Pintchik closes out the set with a soft, dreamy take on the Leonard Bernstein/StephenSondheim hit from "West Side Story," "Somewhere," that gearshifts into the Baden Powell/Vinicus Moraes gem, "Berimbau." Like the other classics she tacklesand on her own compositions as well it's all about melody and intricate, often understated group interplay, and an unabashed search for beauty.
Happy Days Are Here Again; Too Close For Comfort; A Simpler Time; Not So Fast; Over Easy; Private Moment; Fugu; Small Pleasures; Somewhere/Berimbau.
Leslie Pintchik: piano; Scott Hardy: bass; Mark Dodge: drums; Satoshi Takeishi: percussion (1-3, 7, 9); Steve Wilson: alto and soprano saxes (4-6, 8).