Ptah Williams, Larry Kornfeld, Rob Silverman: Rhythm City

Jim Worsley By

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Ptah Williams, Larry Kornfeld, Rob Silverman: Rhythm City
Herbie Hancock's "Chameleon" is about as familiar as any jazz tune could be. If you are going to cover such a classic, you best have your reimagining skills ship shape and polished. A trio consisting of pianist Ptah Williams, drummer Rob Silverman, and bassist Larry Kornfeld was up to the challenge with this and several other well-known songs. The three St. Louis jazzmen delivered "Chameleon" with a funked-up keyboard stretch which focuses on the complete work, not just bouncing off the familiar riff. Within a tight groove, Williams expands into many directions and combines with Silverman and Kornfeld to make a few delicious starts and stops.

The only original tune, "Just Like Us," is an ode to the St. Louis sound. The piano trio sound travels a pleasant journey before hooking up with guest saxophonist Eric Marienthal, who rides a soprano that takes it to another level, without leaving the foundation. Trumpeter Randy Brecker, yet another guest, then slides in and punctuates the moment with his usual savvy note selections. Brecker crisply leads back to the melodic close.

A tune made famous by the great Freddie Hubbard, "Little Sunflower," features a vibrant and chilling opening from Williams. Silverman and Kornfeld add a lot of character while holding the fort. Still, it is Williams who brings an effervescent charm, and is nothing short of scintillating throughout this rousing take. Silverman brings some tasty toots while driving the train. It is a series of directional changes in one continuous flow, perhaps the epic piece of the record.

"Nature Boy" is kicked up several notches. Nat King Cole's beautiful and solemn capture is energized and revamped into another fine palate for Williams and company to explore and brightly invigorate. This "Nature Boy" is flying high and running free.

Going all in on the funk and the fun, the trio surprises with an entry of "Pusherman." Yes, the Curtis Mayfield Super Fly juggernaut in all its glory. This is simply a joyous and fun filled romp. While most of the record is quite improvisational, here they are jamming—jamming for all its worth! It is a tune that at first glance might seem out of place. Maybe the surprise is part of the reason it seems to work. It kicks, that much is for sure.

It was also a nice lead in to change the pace to the soft opening of "Well You Needn't." An opening which quickly dissolves into guest keyboardist Michael Silverman raising the tempo with spirited synth lines. Silverman sails along unimpeded for an extended period before Ptah Williams takes back the reins and takes off, reimagining the Thelonious Monk classic. Again, the rhythm section shines with Kornfeld blistering his way through a powerful bass line and Rob Silverman, after some nice accompaniment, morphing into his own nifty drum solo. The trio concludes back in the midst of Monk's magic.

A visit to Wayne Shorter's camp is next, with the challenging "Virgo Rising." Williams demonstrates a delicate touch in shining a ballad-like light, which quickly shows its teeth. Penetrating the layers with intelligent note selections and again with smooth directional changes, Williams led the trio through an impassioned version.

Chick Corea is up next. The record closes with a take on the Light as A Feather (Polydor, 1973) classic "Spain," the familiar strains now immersed into the St. Louis vibe, sprinkling, raining, and even pouring out of the trio. A different sound brings a unique impression of Corea's masterpiece.

This trio set out to have fun, bring their own character to these songs, and present them in a new light. They would seem to have succeeded with flying colors.

Track Listing

Chameleon; Just Like Us; Little Sunflower; Nature Boy; Pusherman; Well You Needn't; Virgo Rising.


Ptah Williams: piano; Larry Kornfeld: bass; Rob Silverman: drums; Randy Brecker: trumpet; Eric Marienthal: saxophone, soprano; Michael Silverman: keyboards.

Album information

Title: Rhythm City | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Autumn Hill Records

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