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Michael Kocour: Wherever You Go, There You Are

David A. Orthmann By

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Wherever You Go, There You Are, Michael Kocour's energetic, deeply focused, imaginatively performed solo recital, is a patchwork of eight, twentieth-century jazz and popular songs, as well as two of the pianist's original compositions. On the one hand, Kocour is clearly cognizant of the original intent and the performance history of material ranging from "Con Alma," to "How About You?," to "An Affair To Remember," to "Evidence." On the other, Kocour's arrangements and improvisations are brimming with fresh ideas and evince a willingness to take liberties which often result in sudden, shrewd changes in emphasis or direction.

The record's success hinges on Kocour's ability to walk a fine line between deconstructing (losing the thread of) some great songs, and playing things safe (evoking too many echoes of the past). Seven tracks performed on an acoustic piano are recorded in a manner that illuminates Kocour's wide dynamic range and a firm, decisive touch that gives every note its due. "Pensativia," "Freedom Jazz Dance," and the title cut display an affinity for a Fender Rhodes; Kocour's proclivity for invention remains intact in spite of—comparatively speaking—the instrument's limitations.

An interpretation of the standard "Just In Time" reveals an orderly mind jousting with a puckish disposition. The onset of the track feels like we've arrived mid-solo, as rapidly executed single note passages hang in the air, separated by brief silences. Apart from a snippet of the melody, played somewhat conventionally, as if on leave from another track, Kocour offers, among other things, tantalizingly brief blues declarations; a gleeful, insistent and intermittent walking bass line; passages in which the left and right hands are trying to escape one another by briskly moving in different directions; a chordal segment that sounds like a bunch of exclamation points; and rapid fire single note lines played by the left hand while the right executes a fairly complete, jagged version of the tune.

There's a lot more to Kocour's artistry than shaping bold juxtapositions. Another, deeply satisfying side of his personality emerges during "How Deep Is The Ocean." Kocour inhabits the song in a way that sounds as if he's been playing it for many years and has found a personal way of recreating its timeless beauty. The melody gradually unfolds as he fashions a sensitive accord between his left and right hands. Before evolving into a slow-to-medium tempo, he drops some hints of elements employed later on in the outer reaches of the improvisation. Swinging in a steady, if not particularly emphatic manner, the track has the feel of a quest in which an element of vulnerability isn't ignored or denied.

Kocour's eclectic choice of material, individualistic interpretations, and arresting execution make for a recording that lingers in one's consciousness long after the last note has sounded.

Track Listing: Con Alma; Winter's Spell; Pensativa; How About You?; Just In Time; Freedom Jazz Dance; How Deep Is The Ocean; Wherever You Go, There You Are; An Affair To Remember; Evidence.

Personnel: Michael Kocour: piano, Fender Rhodes.

Title: Wherever You Go, There You Are | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: OA2 Records

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