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Pianist Simon Nabatov enlivens the traditional piano trio format with this ambitious new effort titled, Sneak Preview. Along with the world beating rhythm section of bassist Mark Helias and drummer Tom Rainey, the Estonia native pursues Monk-ish accents and odd-metered rhythmic structures on the playful yet complex piece dedicated to soprano saxophonist Steve Lacy aptly titled, “For Steve”. Here, Nabatov exhibits muscularity and fluency while directing the band through subtle shifts in tempo and catchy hooks while Helias and Rainey provide the solid – and thoughtful underpinnings. The pianist is somewhat frisky as he mimics Helias’ angular lines with a lower register attack while the band alternates between bright, orderly frameworks and keen improvisational speak via lush patterns and refined melancholia. On “The Lake”, Tom Rainey provides soft textures via his sensitive utilization of cymbals as Nabatov reaffirms the implied serenity with delicate block chords and intersecting lines as each player adds warmth and accent to the embodiment of this most intriguing composition.
The title track, “Sneak Preview” while dedicated to Mark Helias boasts a mid-tempo swing groove amid linear chord progressions that loosely mirrors traditional Kansas City R&B motifs augmented with Bill Evans-like modern jazz piano voicings. Throughout, Nabatov works the inside and outside while consistently evolving and reinventing the respective themes with panache, color and glistening technical savvy amid the upbeat hustle and bustle of a sympathetic rhythm section.
With Sneak Preview these musicians extend familiar concepts while enabling the listener to grasp the atypical or novel approach in somewhat of an auspicious manner. Hence, we are presented with cunning and serious-minded invention that traverses a transparent course as it all sounds so unaffected! Recommended.