Jazz is music of inherent high quality. Like sex and pizza, even the worst one experiences is still pretty good. This is why the jazz audience has such a high tolerance for trio recordings. The vast majority are very good, while not being great. This trio tachyphylaxis makes it difficult for the erstwhile trio leader to produce a recording that is great and recognized as such.
Gladly the chore is only difficult, but not impossible. New York pianist Rave Tesar and his rhythm section of bassist Kermit Driscoll and drummer (and brother) Bill Tesar have recorded You Decide, a collection of ten original Rave Tesar compositions that is truly exceptional.
Tesar's pianism is manifest. He represents a group of post-Bill Evans pianists not appreciably influenced by Evans. Tesar's opener, "The Scale Song," is an ingenious hybrid of Vince Guaraldi's two-handed playing and Dave Brubeck's love of modes and scales. "Minor Mood" is breezy ballad that rolls from Tesar's fingers. It is full-bodied with an excellent pizzicato bass solo by Driscoll, who is mixed evenly with the piano.
"Have Some More" and "Everybody But Me" smack of Monty Alexander's islands sway, devolving into a clinic on hard bop piano playing. Tesar's empathy with Driscoll is compelling, the two musicians propelling one another on. The title cut features drummer Bill Tesar, who provides a tom-tom introduction into which Driscoll and leader Tesar insinuate themselves. The song is light and airy as is the arrangement. Tesar's light touch is refreshing.
The disc's best offering is the churchy blues "Nobody's at Nobody's." Tesar summons Bobby Timmons, Junior Mance, Gene Harris, and Horace Silver to the alter rail for some grits and greens while Driscoll walks his way to New Orleans. If this is a prayer meeting, I will be there next week. You Decide is a treat, something to get excited about...and that is really saying something.
The Scale Song; Minor Mood; Have Some More; You Decide; The Vision; Everyone But Me; Nobody's At Nobody's; Someone Else's Spell; Minas; Helium.
Rave Tesar: piano; Kermit Driscoll: bass; Bill Tesar: drums.