While the title of this new release is accurate enough in its way, Rhode Island–based pianist Willie Myette is far too self–effacing. He could have more properly called it . . .This Is Jazz (The Way It Was Meant to Be Played by a Trio). Comparisons? Well, even though Myette doesn’t sound much like Ahmad Jamal, I am reminded when listening to this tight–knit and near–telepathic group of Jamal’s classic trio with bassist Israel Crosby and drummer Vernell Fournier. I’ve a hunch these guys have worked together before. If they haven’t, they certainly are quick studies. The interplay among them is as tidy and secure as one could hope for from any trio. Myette is an assertive modernist with an awesome right hand who doesn’t back down when the keyboard needs a good spanking, but he can be exceedingly warm and gentle too, as on the ballads “Blame It on My Youth,” “Ella’s Song” (written for his daughter) or Rodgers and Hart’s poignant “Little Girl Blue.” Myette breezes through the up-tempo numbers (“If I Should Lose You,” Autumn Leaves,” “The Night We Called It a Day”) with ease, as do Carlsen and Menna. As one can appreciate from the songs already mentioned, Myette’s choice of “not–so–standard standards,” as he refers to them, is exemplary. Although I find it hard to listen to “Be My Love” without thinking of Mario Lanza, Myette deflects such deeply ingrained memories by playing it as a brisk samba. This brings us to the closing “Hymn to Freedom,” an Oscar Peterson composition that includes a charming guest appearance by the JazzKids children’s choir. The JazzKids teaching program is Myette’s idea, and since launching it he has introduced to audiences in his area Jazz performers as young as six years of age. If this disc helps move that program forward, so much the better. But Myette’s swashbuckling trio needs no inducement beyond the music to recommend it; its expertise alone should be convincing enough for any well–tuned ears.
If I Should Lose You; Blame It on My Youth; Autumn Leaves; Ella
Willie Myette, piano; Mark Carlsen, bass; Jack Menna, drums.