A keen interest in learning and a predilection for Oscar Peterson-style piano playing seem to be the two biggest guiding forces behind pianist Taurey Butler's life journey thus far. The New Jersey native started on piano in his youth, but put the instrument on the back burner until a Peterson-produced epiphany rekindled his interest in the 88s toward the end of his high school days.
While he clearly had talent, he never put all of his eggs in a music basket and he pursued other interests. Butler moved on to Dartmouth College, where he studied Japanese and majored in electrical engineering, eventually returning to the tri-state area upon graduating, ready to further himself musically. Word of his skills spread quickly and performance opportunities started to open up for the young pianist. He made a key connection with bassist Eldee Young, who took the budding pianist with him for an extended stay in Asia. Upon Young's passing in 2007, Butler relocated to Montreal, Canada, where he made his musical presence felt and landed a steady gig at that city's well known House of Jazz.
Much of the material presented on Butler's self-titled debut was culled from the club set repertoire that he doles out on a weekly basis at House of Jazz, but he also put his pen to good use and wrote some originals for the occasion. The first of his compositions to surface, "An Afternoon Downtown," is a Latin-leaning number that features bassist Eric Lagace, and each original thereafter offers something different. "Grandpa Ted's Tune" is a romping good time, "Voice For All" has an odd-metered undercurrent, "From The Other Side" is a feisty sprint of a piece and "Nobody's Here" is the lone introspective entry in the set.
Butler's piano work is generally muscular and showy, as one would expect from a self-professed Peterson lover, but his virtuosity isn't one-dimensional. He uses his skills to serve the songs and he finds interesting ways to wring the new out of the old. "The Lady Is A Tramp" is given new life and direction, with stealthy stops and twists, and "Emily," originally born as a ballad, is recast as a buoyant waltz. The dream sequence opening of "Moonlight In Vermont," with a steady flow of cascading piano, arco support and cymbal rolls, eventually leads to the expected ballad performance, but it's those opening moments that vividly remain in the mind.
While Butler doesn't leave much room to catch a breath, delivering a program with plenty of adrenaline-infused burners, he also doesn't leave any doubt about his skills as a performer and writer. Taurey Butler is a take-no-prisoners piano trio outing capable of knocking over anything in its path.
Sunrise, Sunset; The Lady Is A Tramp; An Afternoon Downton; Moonlight In Vermont; Grandpa Ted's Tune; Voice For All; Please Send Me Someone To Love; Emily; From The Other Side; Nobody's Here; The Preacher.
Taurey Butler: piano; Eric Lagace: bass; Wali Muhammad: drums.
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