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Harold Danko: Three of Four

C. Andrew Hovan By

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Even when it seems that you've heard all that there is to hear and all of the up-and-coming musicians that are out there to hear, someone will inadvertently pop up and surprise you. Such is the case with pianist Harold Danko, a gentleman who works as a college educator by day, stepping out once in awhile to lead a record date or two for Sunnyside or SteepleChase. It was his recent work for the latter label, as part of a great quartet, that brought Danko to the attention of this reviewer. Since then, his remarkable authority and heartfelt approach has been nothing short of an inspiration.

A specific concept is at play for this new trio affair, we get three of the regular quartet's four members on board (bassist Scott Colley and drummer Jeff Hirshfield) and the program consists exclusively of tunes in the waltz tempo of 3/4 time or 6/8 on occasion. And then leave it to Danko to go for broke by sagaciously choosing eleven tracks that run the gamut from Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz" to Andrew Hill's "Black Fire." Avoiding any monotony that might be suggested by the waltz concept, Danko treats each piece creatively. As a result, Bill Evans' "Turn Out the Stars" appears as a lilting bossa and Monk's "Ruby My Dear" gets its first-ever treatment in three. Abdullah Ibrahim's "Tintiyana" also must be mentioned because it's stately marching tempo and Danko's rapturous solo make it one of disc's finest moments.

As could be expected from a working band, these three men share a musical bond that elevates this set to one of the best piano trio sides in recent memory. Both in support and as a soloist, Scott Colley is quickly becoming a bassist to keep your eyes on with a deep and sonorous sound and quickfire imagination. Danko's style is so much his own that its hard to make the usual comparisons that help to better define a player's approach via the written word. He's at once incendiary on the scorching numbers and movingly introspective on the pretty ballads. In the end, you realize that the possibilities inherent in "three" are more than previously thought imaginable.

Track Listing: Jitterbug Waltz, Tintiyana, Everybody's Song But My Own, Ruby My Dear, Turn Out the Stars, 502 Blues, Little Niles, Black Fire, Valse Hot, Walk On the Water, Blue in Green (68:27)

Personnel: Harold Danko- piano, Scott Colley- bass, Jeff Hirshfield- drums

Title: Three of Four | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: SteepleChase Records

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