Having first heard pianist Taurey Butler while vacationing in Montreal, Canada at the House of Jazz, suffice it say that it was a great night of jazz from a trio also including bassist Eric Lagacé and drummer Wali Muhammad. Butler's self-titled debut features the same trio, playing six familiar tunes and five originals from the pianist.
In his youth, a friend gave Butler a recording by pianist Oscar Peterson. And, in Butler's words, "I knew right away that's what I had been looking for. That's what I wanted to learn how to do."
Originally from East Orange, New Jersey, he played in recent years with bassist Eldee Young on jobs throughout Southeast Asia and the Middle East. When Young died in 2007, Butler moved to Montreal, Peterson's hometown.
Possessing flashy technique, Butler is obviously influenced by his idol, but his approach is original, taking on songs more simply. Take a couple ballads, for instance. On the Suessdorf/Blackburn/Goldsen standard "Moonlight in Vermont," he opens with a lush crescendo over a bowed bass cushion, and then goes into an exquisite slowed-down stride. The pianist's "Nobody's Here" has a wistful quality, aptly characterizing the loneliness expressed in the title. Light brushes on the snare and a melancholy bass accentuate this mood.
Horace Silver's "The Preacher," puts Butler in a "barn-burning" mode, the bowed bass razes the roof; piano and drums trade blistering fours; and all three ignite the flame. The approach is more abstract on Rodgers and Hart's "Lady Is a Tramp." Muhammad starts out relentlessly pushing the Butler's flurry of notes in all directions. "Grandpa Ted," another original, displays Butler's Peterson cred, as he showers notes toward Muhammad, which give as well as take.
Percy Mayfield's "Please Send Me Someone To Love" is the track to play when the party mood mellows. Butler milks the soulful, after-hours feel for all it's got. At 37, Butler is comparatively young and, predictably, this recording is a forerunner of more to come. He has talent in abundance and should be heard.
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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