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Solo Piano - Yin and Yang

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Cornelius Claudio Kreusch
Transformer
Self Produced
2021

Though it's easy enough for a player to find a home niche, Cornelius Claudio Kreusch sounds like he won't really be satisfied until he's practically tried them all. Classically-trained and having whirled through fusion, funk, Latin, African, film scores and probably too much else to list, he somehow manages to pack in pieces of everything when just playing solo. The mix here bridges the classic tones of Thelonious Monk and Bill Evans with the quiet beauty of Joachim Kuhn or Fred Hersch, right alongside fluid genre-weaving worthy of Keith Jarrett and a spontaneous virtuosity that evokes the likes of Bud Powell. While it's easy to keep playing the spot-the-influence game through the whole hour here, Kreusch's melange deserves to stand apart from all of them. As with peers like Jarrett and Brad Mehldau, it all makes for a jazz-based experience you don't have to like jazz to appreciate.

Transformer is a dense hour right from the start, a roiling rumba dedicated to the late Paco de Lucia. From there it remains evocative enough to play like a series of miniature film shorts. "Legacy" romps around a twisting bass figure that would make even Bruce Hornsby think twice; John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" turns haunting and introspective while still allowing for a little rapid crashing as well. Kreusch dances, pounds and stomps across the keys like an eerily precise tornado, calming down for a storm's eye like the placid "Easter Monday," then springing right back into wild flights of play. It's a crazy ride that can't be unpacked or digested in a hurry. Kreusch knows his music history inside and out, well enough to happily transcend and indeed transform whatever he touches.

Kirk Lightsey
I Will Never Stop Loving You
Jojo Records
2021

At the other end of the density scale, while Kirk Lightsey's ivory-tickling also packs in a lot more than it seems, this whole recital still feels lighter than air. The program is comfortably familiar as a warm blanket (almost all '60s bop staples, all frequent mainstays through his career), and things wrap up in a tidy 36 minutes. Still, however many decades he's lived with them, even the same songs float with an endlessly fresh joy of discovery.

While Lightsey stays to the familiar niche of quaint jazz, he brightens it with a rainbow of emotional colors. Fittingly enough for his first solo recording in 35 years, the artist refers to it as "a lesson in patience." Deceptively tricky chords sound smooth and downright leisurely; there's a subtle streak of swing in the grooving, but of course it makes the warm mood no less buoyant. Playfully gliding through his favorite Wayne Shorter repertoire or turning "Giant Steps" sedate enough for some pretty evocative shades, Lightsey molds each complex piece so that there's nothing in the way of the simple heart.

Tracks and Personnel

Transformer

Tracks: Paco; Funkey Monkey; Legacy; Easter Monday; Aeneas; The Last Poet; Vortex; Giant Steps; For My Father; Meral.

Personnel: Cornelius Claudio Kreusch: piano.

I Will Never Stop Loving You

Tracks: I'll Never Stop Loving You; Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum; Pee Wee; Infant Eyes; Goodbye Mr. Evans; Giant Steps; Wild Flower.

Personnel: Kirk Lightsey: piano.

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