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The native of a very small town in Ohio, pianist Lee Ann Ledgerwood is part of an ever growing contingency of extremely talented jazz musicians of the female persuasion, another recent name that comes to mind being trumpeter Ingrid Jensen. Although she's been on the New York scene since 1982, this is one of Ledgerwood's rare dates as a leader (the others being her 1991 debut on the Triloka label and a previous quartet session for SteepleChase) and first crack at a piano trio record. Ultimately, it proves to be one of the best of its kind in recent memory. Simultaneously adventurous but also emotionally direct, Ledgerwood and crew require plaudits for even attempting John Coltrane's title track in this context, bonus points then necessary for doing so with such deftness.
The ensemble that Ledgerwood has created is a working one, her New York apartment the sight of many musical gatherings between the trio members. Both in their early '20s, New Zealander Matt Penman on bass and drummer Jaz Sawyers are names we will be likely hearing more of in the future. Their technical adeptness and ability to respond to Ledgerwood's formidable playing makes this a group of peers, as opposed to a trio comprised of a piano soloist with rhythmic backing.
Ledgerwood's choice of material says a lot about who she is as a pianist and who her influences may have been. For starters, we have Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance," "Five" by Bill Evans, and "Four By Five" from McCoy Tyner. Not content with mere covers, each one of these takes on a '90s perspective as harmonies are altered and liberties are taken with grooves and tempos. The ebullient twelve-minute exploration of the Cole Porter chestnut "Night and Day" is prototypical, the opening melody suspended over a bossa rhythm which is then spelled by some pure 4/4 swing. Upping the ante one notch further, Coltrane's "Transition" and "Central Park West" are as tangible and far removed from the typical piano trio fare as you can get.
Clocking in at just a few hairs shy of 70 minutes, Transition presents us with a solid chunk of heavy duty piano jazz. Ledgerwood comments in the liners about how physically and mentally exhausted she was following the taping of this session. Fortunately, the blood and sweat easily translates into a real keeper that will speak volumes to those with an open mind and heart.
Track Listing: Dolphin Dance, Vierd Blues, Night and Day, Morning Psalm, Five, Appalachian Green, Four By Five, Central Park West, Transition (68:24)
Personnel: LeeAnn Ledgerwood- piano, Matt Penman- bass, Jaz Sawyers- drums
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.