Peter Zak: The Disciple

Dan Bilawsky By

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Peter Zak has put out one strong trio affair after another, yet his work is often overlooked. Maybe it's due to the fact that he hasn't settled on one lineup for an extended period of time, preferring to try out different combinations for his trio recordings; or maybe it's because he doesn't stray far from the straight-ahead path; or maybe it's simply dumb (bad) luck. Regardless of the root cause of said overlooking, it's a real shame that Zak doesn't get more ink, for there's no doubting his skills as a pianist, composer, and musical communicator.

Zak's latest trio affair finds him working with first-call bassist Peter Washington, who's making his fourth consecutive appearance on a Zak trio release, and drummer Willie Jones III, a longtime colleague who first connected with Zak when both men were playing in trumpeter Ryan Kisor's band in the late '90s. Together, these three make magic without resorting to garish displays of skill and unnecessary shows of musical athleticism. They simply play music, and they play it well.

While Zak contributed a few originals for this album, including the title track and the calming "Nightfall In Kandy," the majority of the music—seven of the ten songs—come from other pianistic points of origin. There's a Chick Corea-penned waltz ("The Loop"), a Latin-to-swing classic from Horace Silver ("Nutville"), and a calmly emotive solo piano nod to Russian composer Alexander Scriabin ("Prelude Op. 35 #2"). But that's not all there is to admire. Zak and company also bring out the charm in Elmo Hope's music ("Barfly"), deliver a slow-ish and sly swing reading of a Donald Byrd-associated Herbie Hancock piece ("Requiem"), tap into the blues spirit of Hampton Hawes ("Jackie"), and visit in on Thelonious Monk ("Criss Cross"). All the while, Jones provides gentle support or momentum, Washington works all the angles, supporting from below and stepping out front, and Zak mans the controls, showing strong instincts and skills in every setting.

Track Listing: The Loop; Montserrat; Barfly; Nutville; Prelude, Op. 35 #2; Requiem; Jackie; Criss Cross; Nightfall in Kandy; The disciple.

Personnel: Peter Zak: piano; Peter Washington: bass; Willie Jones III: drums.

Title: The Disciple | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: SteepleChase Records

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