345

Kevin Hays Trio: What Survives

John Kelman By

Sign in to view read count
Kevin Hays Trio: What Survives Like trumpeter Tim Hagans, whose recent release Beautiful Lily represents a welcome return to recording as a leader, pianist Kevin Hays is back with three records in the space of one year, following a seven-year break. Piano Works III: Open Range (ACT, 2005) is a solo effort, while his forthcoming ArtistShare disc features his longstanding trio with bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Bill Stewart. Based on the evidence of What Survives, a recent independent release featuring the same trio from a couple of 2001 sessions, their forthcoming project will be something to watch for.

That's not to say that Hays hasn't been busy. In the years since Andalucia (Blue Note, 1996), he's played on albums by artists including Hagans, saxophonist Chris Potter and trumpeter Eddie Henderson. While he possesses the formidable technique to play in virtually any context, it's his open-mindedness and avoidance of stylistic pigeon-holing that's made him a pianist who, if not a household name to the jazz listening public, is certainly well-known in the jazz community.

For the uninitiated, What Survives is a strong entry point, highlighting Hays' abstract yet appealing writing, and a playing style that—like fellow pianist Marc Copland—is filled with impressionistically out-of-the-box yet eminently lyrical musical thinking. It also demonstrates Hays' ability to innovatively adapt classical material that's as reverential yet improvisationally profound as woodwind player Tim Garland's similar work on Acoustic Triangle's recent Resonance (Audio-B, 2005).

The album opens with three Hays originals, ranging from "Stellar, whose dark and introspective solo piano introduction evolves into lithely swinging vehicle for understated interplay between Hays, Weiss and Stewart. The title track revolves around a repeated 11/8 bass figure doubled by Weiss and Hays' left hand—the piano treated to lend it a "buzzing quality. Hays gradually builds a vivid yet economical solo while Stewart plays liberally with time placement. Hays applies a delicate electronic tremolo on the brooding "Black Elk, reminiscent of the subtle processing of Swedish pianist Esbjorn Svensson; but Hays, while equally contemporary, is less pop-inflected.

Four adaptations of classical pieces follow, with "Anniversary Waltz being the most well-known. Hays retains its familiar theme intact over Weiss and Stewart's vivid swing, but reharmonizations lend a more modernistic edge. "J.B. is the clear highlight of the album, demonstrating just how forward-thinking Hays' musical aesthetic is. Based on Brahms' "Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, it opens with reverse-attack processed piano, but ultimately moves into an organic middle section that progressively narrows the 200-year gap between its composition and Hays' performance.

An ambient reading of the classic "You are My Sunshine ends the disc on an ambiguous note that proves beauty can be found in the most somber of places. The long break between albums may have cost Hays some momentum, but also works to his advantage in allowing him to reinvent himself. What Survives is hopefully just the beginning of a renewed solo career that will finally see the confidence of the jazz community translate into profile with the larger jazz-buying public.

Track Listing: Stellar; What Survives; Black Elk; Anniversary Waltz; J.B.; Anton; Du Pre; You Are My Sunshine.

Personnel: Kevin Hays: piano; Doug Weiss: bass; Bill Stewart: drums.

Year Released: 2005 | Record Label: Self Produced | Style: Modern Jazz


Shop

More Articles

Read Pathways CD/LP/Track Review Pathways
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Landing CD/LP/Track Review Landing
by Mark Sullivan
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Words And Music CD/LP/Track Review Words And Music
by Roger Farbey
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Faces CD/LP/Track Review Faces
by Glenn Astarita
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Nor Sea, nor Land, nor Salty Waves CD/LP/Track Review Nor Sea, nor Land, nor Salty Waves
by Duncan Heining
Published: April 30, 2017
Read Petite Afrique CD/LP/Track Review Petite Afrique
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: April 29, 2017
Read "Morph" CD/LP/Track Review Morph
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 2, 2017
Read "Pineapples and Ashtrays" CD/LP/Track Review Pineapples and Ashtrays
by James Nadal
Published: May 8, 2016
Read "A Moment In Time" CD/LP/Track Review A Moment In Time
by James Nadal
Published: July 21, 2016
Read "Perfectly Out Of Place" CD/LP/Track Review Perfectly Out Of Place
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: May 12, 2016
Read "Perch Hen Brock & Rain/Live @ The Jazz Happening Tampere" CD/LP/Track Review Perch Hen Brock & Rain/Live @ The Jazz Happening Tampere
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 20, 2016
Read "Natural Perception" CD/LP/Track Review Natural Perception
by Edward Blanco
Published: September 5, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM RECORDS | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!