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Aaron Diehl: The Vagabond

Mike Jurkovic By

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Cardinally invested, engaged and resolute on making the classical hop and the swing vice versa, pianist Aaron Diehl, double bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Gregory Hutchinson take a deep dive into the many accords and asymmetries shared by Philip Glass and George Gershwin and come up victorious.

Flush with tradition and vision, pianist Diehl's musical aesthetic hints at everything and manifests itself wholly on his third for Mack Avenue. Proceeding without artifice, the trio's most agile choreography weaves the warm hush of a pool hall with the innate soul of early Romanticists Felix Mendllssohn and Franz Liszt to elevate the individual to a great silent space. And in that great silent space it's just you and the trio and the magic of human communication.

As sure and sleight of hand as Art Tatum or the Modern Jazz Quartet's unflappable John Lewis, each track belies a curious beauty all its own. Roland Hanna's "A Story Often Told, Seldom Heard" aches equally with a classicism akin to Franz Schubert's song cycles. John Lewis's own "Milano" then flips the coin, ebbing from chamber to speakeasy seamlessly. And these are The Vagabond's last two tracks. Now we can work backwards and have some fun.

"Polaris" opens with Sikivie's primal bop solo, a cycle of swirls from Diehl and drummer Hutchinson whispering like Jack DeJohnette and the slow, ambling bloom of the blues begins. Coming from all angles, "Lamia" a gorgeous, almost regal triumph follows, reflecting back the wide spectrum Diehl inhabits from Cecile McLorin Salvant, Wycliffe Gordon and Wynton Marsalis to performing Gershwin with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

"Magnanimous Disguise" ruminates on a downtown cool while shifting like sand to water with a kicky, off-kilter muse. "Park Slope" finds Sikivie's stately bass anchoring yet liberating the composer and the drummer's elegant flights of fancy. Diehl's enigmatic concerto "Treasures Past" faithfully touches upon the indelible Americana of "Ashoken Farewell" on its way to a bluesy tone poem leading into the jubilant stride pianism of "Prokofiev's March." A delicious listen from start to finish, The Vagabond places Diehl squarely in the music's new echelon of history rich, future looking players.

Track Listing

Polaris; Lamia; Magnanimous Disguise; Park Slope; The Vagabond; Kaleidoscope; Treasures Past; Prokofiev March; A Story Often Told, Seldom Heard; Milano.

Personnel

Aaron Diehl: piano; Paul Sikivie: bass; Gregory Hutchinson: drums.

Album information

Title: The Vagabond | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records

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