David Leonhardt / David Leonhardt Trio

Bach to the Blues

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Building jazz atop classical foundations is perhaps nothing new (indeed, this album nearly took the title of the Modern Jazz Quartet's classic Blues on Bach). However, it's a good breeding ground for interesting improvisations, and pianist David Leonhardt handles the classics carefully, separating his short flights from the core of the originals while returning gingerly after every couple of phrases to the original themes. His jazz touch is relatively light, playing the classical elements with just a bit of swing to them and improvising in a relatively serene mode around them. On the Bach pieces, his piano technique veers close to a harpsichord in sound, and on the more romantic pieces he lets the sound flow out a bit more, all again surrounded by intervals of sensitive improvisation and aided greatly by a stable rhythm section (Matthew Parrish and Alvester Garnett), which keeps the sound more distinctly jazz-based than completely in the classical realm. When he does break free more fully (as in the Chopin pieces, among others), he has a strong sense of a basic blues, well informed and smoothly released. It's a nice little romp -- it might not have the full pomp and polish of John Lewis' greatest forays into third stream, but it makes up for the lower technical pedigree with more relaxed soul.

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