Leo Genovese: Unlocked

Phil DiPietro By

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Leo Genovese: Unlocked

Boston takes pride in it's stature as one of those old Yankee towns where it's tough to establish a foothold—a place where it takes three generations to break into an old neighborhood. While it's brimming with young jazz talent, the majority make the most of the locally rigorous musical pedagogy before making haste for New York. Rarely do young players gig in its clubs with the small established cadre of its recognized recording veterans, like George Garzone, Hal Crook or Joe Hunt. At 29, the Argentinean and current Bostonian Leo Genovese is a first-call pianist to them all, but he's also the go-to guy for to the explosive starlet Esperanza Spalding and Cuban drum phenom Francisco Mela. While the resume may indicate Genovese's an old musical soul in a young body, this recording provides proof-positive.

He's accompanied here by a lesser-known and younger bassist with similar old-soul cred, Justin Purtill, who has recorded with Rakalam Bob Moses and Tisziji Munoz. Hunt, who has drummed for such ivory icons as Bill Evans, Steve Kuhn, Don Friedman and Barry Harris, makes no qualms about throwing in his lot with Genovese.

There's nothing old school about Genovese's approach. In fact, on macro and micro levels he actively resists conformity. Conceptually, he refuses tying himself to any stylistic tree, and his playing often defies resolution for the entirety of even the ripest standard chestnuts. This makes his embrace by Boston's vanguard all the more remarkable but somehow, he always fits without having to fit in.

One of the reasons for this is that he's a flat out fantastic player. Just cue up "Mega Tsunami," a tidal-wave compendium of approaches and technique from avant to classical that cross-hybridizes the inside chops quotient of a Gonzalo Rubalcaba with the out pointillism of a Cecil Taylor before throttling to pastoral lyricism. This spontaneously composed tour-de-force is the recommended first stop.

Another reason is his all-encompassing knowledge of and fervor for modern styles, including the jam-inflected, envelope filter-enhanced loopiness of "Do you Want Some Mints?" as Hunt pounds the skins in a manner no man of half his age should. Genovese abets the freak-out burn by taking his sole turn on a wood flute with a sax-like bell that produces a Dolphy-esque wail while covering the range of his former arsenal, from bass clarinet to flute.

Genovese spends more time inside the piano than out of it for the exhilarating fun of the "March of the Musical Robots" and pulls on the heartstrings while simultaneously adding sonic guideposts to the journey of "Signs of Transcendence."

The title tune is a teetering house of cards, embellished randomly, then prodded to the tipping point before being allowed to recover. Purtill's patience and Hunt's elasticity resuscitate each measure, while Genovese sounds all too willing to release them into the wild. It's precisely here, and many other revelatory points during the course of Unlocked, where rewards are revealed as this trio collectively finds, then joyously throws away, the key.

Track Listing: Unlocked; Do You Want Some Mints?; Keep It Loose; Dance; Mega Tsunami; March of the Musical Robots; Signs of Transcendence; Animal Religions; We Are Always at the Beginning; Hunting.

Personnel: Leo Genovese: piano, sonics, wood flute; Justin Purtill: bass; Joe Hunt: drums.

Title: Unlocked | Year Released: 2008 | Record Label: Ropeadope


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