John Tennyson

Europa

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While the daring improvisational nature of jazz and the tidy, note-for-note perfection of classical music don't seem terribly compatible, this pianist (with a severe case of wanderlust in his heart) makes them seem almost related. Created almost spontaneously when Tennyson visited a friend in Monte Carlo and decided to do some practicing on his piano, Europa -- not to be confused with the Tom Coster/Carlos Santana classic -- plays like a lush foreign film score, complete with sweeping romantic scenes, elegant reflective solo piano moments, and a few dashing rhythmic surprises along the way. The elegant and seductive "Preludio" and "Citta Vecchia" (which blend together) set the generally wistful tone for the whole set, evoking images of a Parisian restaurant with Raul Jaurena's waltzing Bandoneon sweeping gracefully over Tennyson's graceful high tones before a string quartet chimes in with a dramatic exclamation point or two toward the end. The nearly eight-minute "Fortunato" opens as an intimate meditation before Tennyson gets busy experimenting with brisker tempos and improvisations that lope along joyously. Tennyson is also prone, as on "Milonga Sinistra," to noodle just a bit on the high register as if searching for the right melody to sweep listeners into. This is quite a beautiful recording, but it could benefit from more moments like the title track, which begins with Tennyson showing off his incredibly graceful classical chops before jumping head first into a playful Latin jazz romp, complete with glissandos and rolling basslines by Jeffrey Carney. That tune captures Tennyson's complete European journey in a matter of minutes. Much of the rest seems like pleasant conversation before the storytelling begins.

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