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Hal Galper Trio: Trip the Light Fantastic

Dan McClenaghan By

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About eighty percent of the jazz piano players out there can fit into one of two schools: that of the introspective, harmonically rich Bill Evans mode; or the more percussive and gregarious Bud Powell bebop approach. There's also a small slice of the that pie that draws it primary inspiration from bright and splashy Art Tatum/Oscar Peterson pre-bop playing style, along with various subsets. Then there are those who take a foundation of one of those approaches and craft something quite unique, the path that Hal Galper has taken over the past decade.

A veteran of the groups of trumpeter Chet Baker and alto saxophonist Phil Woods, Galper can certainly claim a bebop foundation. But he has taken that foundation and flown free with it, as documented in his recent Origin CDs— Furious Rubato (2007) and E Pluribus Unum (2010)—where he explored the rubato style of playing, an approach that lends elasticity to time and tempo, and often engenders wildness and abandon.

Galper opens the set with Sammy Fain/Bob Hilliard's "Alice in Wonderland," a tune famously covered by Evans on his masterpiece Sunday at the Village Vanguard (Riverside Records, 1961). This is not a floating Evans version, however; Galper and band mates—drummer John Bishop and bassist Jeff Johnson—take the tune on a furiously tumultuous ride, full of urgency, pushing in the direction of flying out of control, without ever doing so.

Jule Styne's standard "Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry" is more restrained, a deeply ruminative and intimate conversation between Galper and Johnson that leads into the ominous Galper original, "Suspension," which puts the trio's edgy interactivity and ability to sustain a prickly momentum on full display. The title tune, another Galper original, has a swaying, fractured grandeur, an off-center, freewheeling beauty full of mystery and intrigue.

The trio wraps it up with "Be My Love," a film tune written for vocalist Mario Lanza. Bishop's drums sizzle and detonate unpredictably; Johnson's bass rumbles; and the piano notes careen with a scintillating, headlong freedom, closing out Galper's finest trio outing to date.

Track Listing: Alice in Wonderland; Babes of Cancun; Get Up & Go; Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry; Suspension; Trip the Light Fantastic; Be My Love.

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

Title: Trip the Light Fantastic | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Origin Records

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