Kenny Werner has long been active as a jazz pianist/bandleader, composer and jazz educator, having recorded around two dozen albums as a leader and many more as a sideman. He has performed with quite a few jazz greats, including Charles Mingus, Bob Brookmeyer, Lee Konitz and Toots Thielemans. He's also a sought after pianist by vocalists, having long worked with Broadway star Betty Buckley and jointly leading the Delirium Blue Project with Roseanna Vitro.
This trio date pairs the pianist with bassist Johannes Weidenmueller and drummer Ari Hoenig, two top musicians of their generation. Werner incorporates the lyricism of Bill Evans while blending in his own inventive arrangements and intensity. He starts Miles Davis' "Nardis" with a playful hip introduction that even adds the air of a hoedown, though the arrangement only uses Evans' ideas as a launching pad, Werner taking a more spacious route, a tough challenge given the many recordings available by Evans. Regardless of who you credit with writing "Blue in Green" (Evans is more likely its composer), Werner's impressionist introduction sets up a haunting arrangement of this modal masterpiece.
The off-center take of John Coltrane's "26-2" is a lively affair as well. Werner's "Beauty Secrets" is a gem that unveils itself slowly with many shimmering facets, eventually evolving into the centuries-old "Greensleeves". The pianist is a gifted interpreter of standards, delivering a whispering "With a Song in My Heart," a subtly swinging "Autumn Leaves" and a buoyant, waltzing "All the Things You Are" where he seems at times independent of the rhythm section.
Track Listing: With a Song in My Heart; Nardis; Autumn Leaves; If I Should Lose You; Beauty Secrets; All the Things You Are; Balloons; 26-2; Blue in Green.
Personnel: Kenny Werner: piano; Johannes Weidenmueller: bass; Ari Hoenig: drums.
I was first exposed to jazz while working overseas in Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I would listen to the Voice of America on the radio and they had a nightly jazz program on at 10:00pm. I learned a lot about jazz listening to this program. I also had a friend who listened to real jazz by artists like Charles Mingus, Eric Dolphy and Archie Shepp. On my way home from Africa I landed in New York and had the opportunity to see the George Adams/Don Pullen quartet at the Village Vanguard as well as Kenny Barron and Ron Carter at another club, and was in heaven.