Home » Jazz Articles » Album Review » Hal Galper Trio: The Zone: Live At The Yardbird Suite


Hal Galper Trio: The Zone: Live At The Yardbird Suite


Sign in to view read count
Hal Galper Trio: The Zone: Live At The Yardbird Suite
Pianist Hal Galper has rounded out a career spanning five decades with his stint at Origin Records, beginning with Furious Rubato (2007) and wrapping things up—or so it was rumored—with 2018's Cubist. Most of these are trio affairs featuring bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop, with Cubist adding saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi to the mix. All of them respresent Galper's quest for the perfection of the elastic approach to tempo called the rubato style. And it could be credibly said that perfection has been achieved.

The Zone: Live At The Yardbird Suite captures Galper in perhaps the most mesmerizing of his Origin Records sets. He and his long-term trio with Johnson and Bishop enter "The Zone"—where self awareness is lost, leaving the music to control the proceedings. From the first note they play, on "Israel"—best known as a tune from the Birth Of The Cool (Capitol Records, 1957), one that also served as the opener for pianist Bill Evans' Explorations (Riverside Records, 1961)—the rubato approach keeps things unbalanced. On a blind listen the tune might not be identifiable in the beginning, but at around seven minutes in, the zone shifts and the trio slips into segment of playing the tune straight, serving the ear as an epiphany of sorts.

Galper's previous trio outings on Origin Records were, in large part, presentations of jazz standards and Great American Songbook tunes—music of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, George Gershwin—with some Galper originals thrown into the mix, all done in his distinctive rubato style. The Zone, and Cubist before it, switch the focus to the underappreciated tunesmithing of Jeff Johnson, who has a discography of superb Origin Records recordings under his own name, including Deuce (2012), Tall Stranger (2008), and Near Earth (2004). His music is fluid and free, beautiful and approachable. His "Kiwi" is all jostling and bumping, shot through with gorgeous, laid-back interplay. "Cubist" has a restless, slip-sliding, multi-pronged momentum which leads into a sensuous Johnson-written ballad, "Artist." And "Scene West" sounds like a slinky soundtrack for a noir detective movie.

In a 1992 interview with Jazz Times' David Zynch, Galper said, "As an accompanist for thirty-five years [Chet Baker, Phil Woods, Sam Rivers] it was my responsibility to be professional and flexible. But somewhere in the back of my mind I always wondered, when is the time going to come when I don't have to compromise at all?" That time seems to have begun in earnest in 2007, with Furious Rubato, and it has continued on and achieved near-perfection with The Zone: Live At The Yardbird Suite, in a series of eight albums, over a twelve year period, which—taken as a whole—represent a superb and innovative, career-capping achievement.

Track Listing

Israel; Kiwi; Cubist; Artist; Scene West; Scufflin'; Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight.


Hal Galper: piano; Jeff Johnson: bass; John Bishop: drums

Album information

Title: The Zone: Live At The Yardbird Suite | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Origin Records


For the Love of Jazz
Get the Jazz Near You newsletter All About Jazz has been a pillar of jazz since 1995, championing it as an art form and, more importantly, supporting the musicians who create it. Our enduring commitment has made "AAJ" one of the most culturally important websites of its kind, read by hundreds of thousands of fans, musicians and industry figures every month.

You Can Help
To expand our coverage even further and develop new means to foster jazz discovery and connectivity we need your help. You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky ads plus provide access to future articles for a full year. This winning combination will vastly improve your AAJ experience and allow us to vigorously build on the pioneering work we first started in 1995. So enjoy an ad-free AAJ experience and help us remain a positive beacon for jazz by making a donation today.



Whisper Not
Paul Kendall
Duo Work
Sam Newsome
Blue Topaz
Peter Hand


Get more of a good thing!

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories, our special offers, and upcoming jazz events near you.