Most of the pianos, if not all those played by the great Thelonious Monk were barely in tune, let alone endowed with the finest materials as those that Jazz musicians have today. And yet he, like Herbie Nichols and others before them – Art Tatum, James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith – and others produced not only the finest compositions for the instrument, but also the most extraordinary sound on them. Very little music played by a pianist – or indeed any contemporary instrumentalist – does not include the music of those masters… at least one Monk standard (for instance) during a performance. Keith Jarrett almost always does so. Fred Hersch ends most of his live performances with a Monk original. Of the three pianists whose work is under review here, only Luis Perdomo pays homage to Monk. However that is far from being an indication that the others – Louis Heriveaux and Keith Brown – do not owe a some or other aspect of their pianism to Thelonious Monk, or any of the other great pianist in the Jazz, or classical traditions. And yet each of the discs also speaks to the individuality of these three pianists through well-chosen repertoire, including some unduly neglected piano works, or works transposed for interpretation on the piano.
Hot Tone Music HTM 109
Each of the fifteen cuts on this disc is so much more that documentary interest. At the end of it all, nothing can dim one’s sense of Luis Perdomo’s massive and unswerving authority, a quality at once lyrical and magisterial. A true aristocrat of the keyboard, his warmth and humanity strike you at every turn, as well as a communicative ardour less pronounced in scores of other pianists of his generation. Hear him in Thelonious Monk’s ‘Monk’s Dream’ for that deep-into-the-keys, straight-from-the-shoulder virtuosity or in his formidably imposing way with Stanley Cowell’s ‘Cal Massey’. In his own compositions – the five works entitled ‘Montage’ – Perdomo reveals himself to be among the finest workmen of the keyboard as he sparkles like champagne. Everything that he does on the keyboard is at the service of the music, backed by a thrilling if unostentatious mastery. An evocative brilliance characterises his visit to Latin America (‘Si te Contara’ ‘Le Revuelta de Don Fulgencio’) and how he relishes the ballad (‘Thinking of You’). There is much more to fall prey to on this marvellous solo piano performance by a true piano master.
Hot Shoe Records HSR 110
The ghosts of ‘the ancestors’ hover over this collection – in both the deep and shallow end of the performance of Louis Heriveaux, a pianist who may not be terribly well-known outside of Georgia. More’s the pity. Heriveaux is a musician bristling with pianistic genius. Here he embellishes the beauty of some of the most well-known American Standards playing with delightful elegance, open sincerity and clear affection for the music. His performance of ‘Body and Soul’ and ‘All The Things You Are’ attracts particular attention as they sparkle with individuality. Elsewhere, especially in his own writing, and performance Heriveaux displays further attributes as a wonderful tonal colourist and ardent Romantic. I was much taken with the sound world Heriveaux creates for Mulgrew Miller’s ‘From Day to Day’, and by his interpretation of ‘Blue Bossa’. He produces a fresh silvery quality that yet has lyrical warmth in ‘Lundy’s Blues’ contributed here by the bassist Curtis Lundy, and on ‘Swing’n Things’ from the pen of drummer Terreon Gully where challenges are deftly addressed and the rapid repeated notes and glissandi are executed with ease and elegance.
Space Time Records BG 1540
This recording comprises eleven originals and one classic version of Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s rarely played ‘The Biscuit Man’. This music is played by a large(r) group of musicians as compared to the other records and there is a somewhat grander, more operatic dynamic at work here, both pragmatically and artistically. Yet it is easy to pick out the elegance and dextrous pianism that falls over the senses like wonderful cascades of music. ‘Ten Years of Turmoil’ for the manner in which Keith Brown rides the emotional storms of his composition with a thunder-and-lightning virtuosity. His ode to Kenny Kirkland ‘Capt’n Kirk’ is inspired and glitters with endless enchantment. The pianist brings much musical character and a luxuriant atmosphere to the piano with his wonderfully composed work. Most, if not all of it constitutes unusual form-building and the high drama of piano-writing. However music leaps off the page not only because of fine writing, but also outstanding performance – from Keith Brown as well as from the musicians that he surrounds himself with. The performance of the saxophonist Greg Tardy (sadly on only three tracks) is noteworthy for its exceptional breadth and expressiveness. There is much to recommend the other musicians as well through often delicate colourations brought to the music with delightful sympathy and virtuosity.