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
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.