This disc by Chris Ziemba is extremely articulate and palpably personal. It speaks of a long acquaintance with music and you only need to sample his lively nod to Charlie Parker and bebop on ‘Josie’ to hear how lovingly he caresses the music, giving it a raptness that rivals pianists far older and more experienced than him, which says much about the precociousness of Chris Ziemba. But there’s playfulness too, as witness ‘Escher’s Loop’, a song that dances with plenty of energy and exuberance, while offering in its conception something vastly deeper and honed with the sensibility and leonine energy.
Manhattan Lullaby features compelling balladry and languid musical development. But the swings and roundabouts also contained here are magnificently profound and difficult to equal, even by pianists who can match Ziemba in virtuosity. That’s because Chris Ziemba’s music has a delicious spring in its step and he uses this characteristic to imbue each song with energy and a pleasing solidity too. If his version of ‘I Wish I Knew’ does not have the ferbrile quality of Bill Evans’s masterly vision, in its place is a vivid sense of its arching architecture married to a simplicity of utterance and is dispatched with complete inevitability. Again in his meditative piece ‘An Introspection’ with which he closes the album, there may be more superficially brilliant reflective pieces around, but few could match the rich tints and hues of Chris Ziemba’s pieces.
A great deal of the disc is devoted to idiomatic arrangements of newly composed material which suits Ziemba’s brand of pianism particularly well. Whether in the quiet solemnity of ‘Manhattan Lullaby’ or in the tolling depths of ‘Wandering’ there is a rightness to everything he does. And it’s not only the pianist, but bassist Hans Glawischnig, who turns in a magnificent performance as do drummer Jimmy MacBride and reeds and winds player Michael Thomas. And in the end where is the timeless joy of music but in the joy of Chris Ziemba’s musicianship, in evidence all over this superb album.
Track List: Josie; The Road Less Traveled; Manhattan Lullaby; I Wish I Knew; Escher’s Loop; Wandering; Little T; An Introspective.
Personnel: Chris Ziemba: piano; Hans Glawischnig: bass; Jimmy MacBride: drums; Michael Thomas: alto saxophone, bass clarinet.
Label: Outside In Music
Release date: March 2016
Running time: 53:46