Few would argue that Oscar Peterson
ranks as Canadas number one jazz export, although Diana Kralls rapid rise to
stardom finds the singing keyboardist in the spotlight more often these days than
Peterson, one of her acknowledged musical mentors. Yet, even as the Krall hype snowballs,
a number of other Canadian-born pianists have quietly assumed promising bandleader roles
after developing their talents for years in the groups of veteran jazz performers. D.D.
Jackson and Renee Rosnes are among the finest of the current Canadian wave to have
graduated from sideplayer status; both have noteworthy new releases out on major US
Pullens Protege Goes It Alone
D.D. Jackson is no stranger to the recording studio,
having led six dates during the past five years for Montreal-based Justin Time Records.
However, ...so far stands as his first completely solo recorded project---and what
a remarkable project it is! Jacksons prodigious technique, honed over a lifetime of
classical piano studies, has never been more apparent, nor have his improvising skills
been put to such a rigorous test.
Doubters are directed to "Camiliano," an homage to fellow
ivory pummeler Michel Camilo. Jackson takes the listener on a whirlwind tour through the
West Indies, complete with hurricane-force fingerwork. Even at this breakneck tempo, his
keyboard work retains clarity and precision. But the composer never lets technique obscure
emotional immediacy. Therein lies the genius of this composition, and of the album as a
wholeit achieves a delicate balance between sensuality and intellect, between
freedom and restraint.
The passion unleashed on pieces like "Camiliano" evokes
memories of Don Pullen, who took Jackson under his wing when he first arrived in New York
a decade ago. Pullen became an influential tutor, and he introduced Jackson to many of the
improvisers with whom he would subsequently make his mark, most notably reedman David
Murray. Earlier this year, the 32-year-old pianist joined the latest incarnation of
Murrays octet; the band has been touring with new arrangements of John
Coltranes music and promises a studio recording in February. Jacksons second
RCA date, a sextet project featuring young sax dynamo James Carter, will be issued next
Jackson acknowledges the contributions of other jazz masters on ...so
far, interpreting tunes either written by or for Duke Ellington, Ornette Coleman,
Thelonious Monk, Charles Mingus, Bud Powell and Jaki Byard. He also includes original
compositions written in honor of two of his primary classical music influences: composer
Claude Debussy ("Playground") and performer Vladimir Horowitz ("Round and
Round"). Each of these solo pieces conveys some essence of the artist it honors, but
the pianists real triumph here is that each performance bears his own unmistakable
D.D. Jacksons ...so far is essential listening for anyone
interested in experiencing creative directions in jazz piano artistry at the dawn of a new
Rosnes Romps with Soulful Art
Connecticut concert-goers got a taste of this
womans "art and soul" July 25th when she joined Jon Faddis and friends for
a jubilant tribute to Dizzy Gillespie at the conclusion to this years Greater
Hartford Festival of Jazz. In a set dominated by blazing bop, fingersnapping Afro-Cuban
sounds and gutbucket R&Beach of which she handled with easeRenee Rosnes
managed to mesmerize the Bushnell Park crowd with her eloquent, understated reading of the
evergreen "Body and Soul," sans horns.
And so it is with Art & Soul, the new trio outing by this
transplanted Canadian, who now resides in New York with her husband (and drummer of
choice) Billy Drummond. Aided by bassist Scott Colley, the wife and husband percussion
team presents 10 mesmerizing performances on the pianists sixth Blue Note recording.
Most emit a warm glow that recalls the inspired impressionism of trio masters like Bill
Evans and Keith Jarrett; a few, howeverlike "Blues Connotation," an
Ornette Coleman favoriteexude high-beam intensity, assuring that the listener will
be kept alert during this hour-long jazz journey.
Rosnes is an excellent composer, as the sophisticated swing of
"Romp" and the playful "Little Spirit" attest, but this time around,
she has chosen primarily to arrange other artists material, with some fascinating
results. The Beatles "With a Little Help from My Friends" becomes a
gospel-inflected blues number. Vocalist Dianne Reeves and multi-instrumentalist Richard
Bona help transform Wayne Shorters "Footprints" into a powerful percussive
paean to our ancient African ancestors. The Rosnes trio even covers Bela Bartok, pushing
the folk roots of the Hungarian composers "Childrens Song No. 3" to
the forefront, then tweaking the hypnotic, repetitive melody with enticing jazz rhythms,
thereby producing a most unusual cultural crossover.
Art & Song gives Rosnes--the keyboardistplenty of
space to shine. Still, the best work here doesnt match her finest recorded moments,
which have usually come during her own pieces, in the company of a strong horn player. In
the past, interaction with the likes of Joe Henderson and Wayne Shorter has coaxed forth
this pianists most vital, most original improvisations.
Although it may not be her strongest album to date, Art & Soul
does reveal several significant facets of Renee Rosnes: the first-class arranger
with catholic musical tastes, the bold trio leader who allows group interplay to guide her
instincts, and the brilliant music-poet capable of conveying the range of human expression
through simple melodies, harmonies and rhythms.
Copyright©WWUH: November/December Program Guide, 1999