Jo Ann Daugherty is certainly not as well-known as she should be. Bring Joy ought to change that; the sooner the better. Listening to her play one becomes aware that Daugherty is, indeed, a pianist of extremely fine taste. It’s not often that you come across someone like her. Listen to many musicians today and you’ll find that they play just the precise note not only because they hear it in their head, but because it is the right note to play, or it makes sense to have it there; logical things like that. But there is something about Jo Ann Daugherty that suggests she feels the vibration of the impending note in her heart and deep inside her whole body. Thus it becomes the right thing to do. “Heart music” is what one comes to mind when listening to Jo Ann Daugherty.
I am fairly sure that this is also what informed the choice of repertoire on Bring Joy – especially in Daugherty’s decision to begin and end the disc with music by the legendary Abdullah Ibrahim, and more that, to play them in the manner that she does. “Water From an Ancient Well” sets a glorious tone for the entire album, raises the bar for what is to follow and its performance says much about Daugherty’s own playing. The airy nimbleness of her extraordinary pianism, its dynamic range and balance are rare. The melodic lines of the piece are beautifully moulded, the return of the opening chords hushed, the climax gorgeous and the dying fall subtly atmospheric. And if it’s hard to find fault with anything here, because only Abdullah Ibrahim would play it better, what’s not to like about “The Wedding” and everything in between?
The quality of playing by Jo Ann Daugherty is altogether exceptional. There is nothing wildly idiosyncratic, let alone iconoclastic, à la some pianists today who shall remain anonymous. And yet she brings juicy, jazzy brilliance to Stevie Wonder’s “The Secret Life of Plants”. She is an entertainer, with a virtuosity that allows her not only to tackle Herbie Hancock’s iconic “Dolphin Dance” but to arrange it with a singularity that she uses to approach composition. Listen to “Alive”, “Elsewhen” and “BJ’s Tune”. It is clear from the idiomatic writing and her performance here that Jo Ann Daugherty has mastered mood and atmosphere and the ability to coordinate colour and structure to a rare degree. It is with these very beautiful facets of her musicianship that Daugherty approaches the romance of Lorin Cohen’s work: “The Way You Know Me”, “Unconditionally”, and the bittersweet “Hope For Love”.
Composer Lorin Cohen and Ryan Bennett also bring their ‘A’ Game to bass and drums respectively, as do guitarists Neal Alger and Felton Offard, and the irrepressibly joyous Geraldo de Oliveira, a rather unsung percussion colourist.
Bring Joy is an album of glinting lights, mysterious depths, expectations, hopes and doubts and shadows glimpsed by moonlight in a forest. In sheer colour and variety, in the depth of its characterisation, and in the exceptional range of refinement of Jo Ann Daugherty’s pianism.
Track List: 1: Water from an Ancient Well; 2: The Way You Know Me; 3: Unconditionally; 4: The Secret Life of Plants; 5: Alive; Elsewhen; 6: BJ’s Tune; 7: Hope for Love; 8: Dolphin Dance; 9: The Wedding.
Personnel: Jo Ann Daugherty: piano; Lorin Cohen: bass; Ryan Bennett: drums; Neal Alger: guitar (4, 5); Geraldo de Oliviera: percussion (4); Felton Offard: guitar (7).