Strong personality and quiet virtuosity combined with depth of feeling and painterly musical fingers combine to give the music on this live date by Chris Rottmayer and his quartet the kind of translucence that make it exceptionally memorable. It is also a considerable achievement for a pianist in this day and age to take music that is quite familiar and turn each of the songs into a personal statement all his own.
As a pianist, Mr Rottmayer once ignited the music of Walt Disney World for a little over a decade. Now, ploughing his comparatively lonely furrow in Madison Wisconsin the pianist was engaged in shepherding several small ensembles of his own – one of which was notably laced with the ineffably seductive vocals of Ashley Locheed and the other being a chamber ensemble called the Nocturnes Project. Wherever he takes his pianistic gifts, Mr Rottmayer graces the music with elegance, charm and eminently good taste. Gratuitous virtuosity is always eschewed; replaced, instead, by lucid melodicism, inventive harmonic conceptions, rhythmic solidity all of which is employed in the pursuit of creativity; put to use in the service of the song at hand.
On this live recording, one particular song stands out and that is Charles Mingus’ shadowy “Nostalgia in Times Square”. Mr Rottmayer is a model of poise and nuanced expression. This performance of Mr Mingus’ classic nocturne prominently displays an inerrant rhythmic undergirding that also informs Mr Rottmayer’s other interpretations, regardless of conventionally accepted shifts in interpretative fashion. The result is that each of the charts is driven by a perennial freshness of ideas and conception and melodic approach which takes the song – and us, his listeners – to another world of hopes, dreams and aspirations.
These are all standards, yet each comes alive with Mr Rottmayer’s idiosyncratic expertise. The character of each piece is carefully wrought, though all are informed by his innately characteristic Jazzy rhythmicality. This hour-long performance is a truly fascinating, often surprising set that rewards repeated listening.
Track list – 1: Meteor; 2: Weaver of Dreams; 3: Skylark; 4: Mamacita; 5: My Foolish Heart; 6: Emily; 7: The More I See You; 8: Nostalgia in Times Square; 9: Trocadero; 10: Waltz for Julia; 11: Cherokee; Break Blues for Pilar
Personnel – Chris Rottmayer: piano; Charlie Silva: bass; Walt Hubbard: drums; Jack Wilkins: tenor saxophone
Released – 2020
Label – Pilars Records
Runtime – 1:07:36