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Lara Driscoll: Woven Dreams

Jordan Penney By

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Lara Driscoll: Woven Dreams
Woven Dreams is the debut album of pianist and Illinois-based university instructor, Lara Driscoll. The disc's uncluttered piano, bass and drums format encourages the clarity and luminosity of her compositions to shine forth, and they do. The format also draws attention to the richness of the group's internal dynamics.

The influence of Bill Evans is felt strongly in Driscoll's style. It is evident, first, in her lyrical and measured playing which, like that of Evans, exhibits poise in both jazz and classical modes. Miles Davis once characterized Evans' music as sounding like "crystal notes or sparkling water cascading down from some clear waterfall," and the image fits for Driscoll's playing throughout Woven Dreams. And like Evans, Driscoll has an aptitude for digging deep enough into a jazz standard to take it to surprising places while preserving and elaborating its core mood or melody. In her version of Billy Strayhorn's challenging "Isfahan," for example, she wraps the signature ascending and descending melody in some careful solos and digressions. It is an intriguing interpretation. Likewise, her version of Vernon Duke's "Autumn in New York" ends with a beautiful and unexpected classical-inspired coda.

Driscoll's originals are highlights throughout and are also characterized by surprising moments. The ten-minute three-part suite, "Forgiving—Black Dog Skirts Away," functions as a kind of centerpiece of the record, propelled by a simple but continually shifting and almost funky motif. Each time it swells up, the bassist and drummer (Paul Rushka and Dave Laing respectively) lock in and out of sync with the piano gently to underline it. "Mamy Adieu" is another intriguing and emotionally absorbing piece. It opens elegiacally with some somber passages and its seven-minute runtime maintains a laidback and unhurried tempo even as the group works through some subtly swinging moments.

Although the listener will hear echoes of Evans and Ahmad Jamal in Driscoll's playing style, as a composer she has something in common with the late McCoy Tyner in his post-John Coltrane Latin music-inspired modes. (But nothing in common, it should be said, with Tyner's propensity for barreling spiritual jazz exercises.) Driscoll's playing on Woven Dreams is as animated by blues and samba rhythms as Tyner's was on Enlightenment (1973), Sama Layuca (1974) and Atlantis (1974), all released on Milestone. "Siblings," for example, an original, is performed around a syncopated tango melody, and "O Morro Não Tem Vez," a jazz samba classic, swings heavily. And as with Tyner, the influence emerges only occasionally but expertly, and in a way that punctuates the music, adding color and texture. With her fluency in this and other jazz-related idioms, Driscoll's music could go in several different directions. Meanwhile, Woven Dreams is an inspired and promising statement.

Track Listing

Autumn in New York; Siblings; Airport Limbo; Forgiving - Black Dog Skirts Away: I. Forgiving; Forgiving - Black Dog Skirts Away: II: Black Dog; Forgiving - Black Dog Skirts Away: III. Skirts Away; O Morro Não Tem Vez (Favela); Mamy Adieu; Trespassers; Isfahan; Just One of Those Things; ECMT Intro; ECMT Blues; Woven Dreams.

Personnel

Lara Driscoll: piano; Dave Laing: drums; Paul Rushka: bass.

Album information

Title: Woven Dreams | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Self Produced

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