Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Solo Brilliance from Kenny Werner

In the year of Vijay Iyer, with great double live albums by Fred Hersch and a rediscovery from Bill Evans, it wouldn’t be fair to let these last couple of months sneak off without counting Kenny Werner’s richly melodic live solo set Me Myself & I among the best piano jazz albums of recent months. Werner is a band guy – he likes to play off other people and vice versa. He also, by his own admission, doesn’t like to practice. But having been working up his chops for a separate project, he felt up to doing a solo gig at the 2011 Montreal Jazz Festival. Having been at the festival the night he was playing and…um…opting to see a different show, the reaction after hearing this was part regret for having missed such a magical night, part gratitude that Werner had the foresight to make a live record out of it.

Werner takes his time slipping into Round Midnight, bringing a glimmering neoromantic edge spiced by a handful of smartly placed bolero allusions, a little messing with the rhythm, spiraling down to a terse nocturne and then swinging it again. Balloons, a moody, modally fueled original edges in and out of waltz time, shifting from gleaming apprehension to a dark, flamenco-tinged High Romantic angst. By contrast, Werner briskly runs the changes throughout All the Things before shifting into expansive waves of tersely tuneful variations. He does the same a bit later on with Giant Steps, precise righthand chromatics anchored firmly in lefthand murk.

He plays Blue Is Green as a September song, with an understatedly towering intensity, finally hits the blues head-on and then lets it down gracefully. The real surprise here is fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell’s I Had a King, where Werner works his way from allusively moody, to incorporate hints of vaudeville and ragtime before ending with a creepy chromatic flourish. The last song on the album is Thad Jones’ pretty ballad A Child Is Born, juxtaposing minimalist opacity against an unexpectedly wary, almost rubato waltz, a couple of devious false endings and a long series of crescendos that are a clinic in how to develop a theme for maximum impact. For tracks that go on as long as these do – up to almost fifteen minutes – Werner never loses sight of the melody or the mood. The album’s out now from Justin Time. Memo to self: next time in Montreal…

November 7, 2012 - Posted by | jazz, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , ,

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