Mal Waldron's Breaking New Ground is an abrupt departure for the pianist. Normally focusing on his own compositions, these 1983 trio sessions with Reggie Workman and Ed Blackwell find him mining current pop songs, including a novel approach to "You Are the Sunshine of My Life," and a rather tedious rendition of "Beat It." The moody setting of "Everything Must Change" benefits from Waldron's typically dark chords, while French Impressionist Erik Satie's "Gympnopedie #2" is initially interpreted as a very deliberate solo, with Workman gradually working in some sporadic fills. Johnny Mandel's "Suicide Is Painless" (also known as "Theme from M*A*S*H") was a favorite of pianist Bill Evans, but Waldron opts to approach this darkly comic ballad as an intense post-bop cooker instead. The leader's sole original is the loping opener "Dans La Cuisine d'Alibi," which ends up sounding like a closing theme from a detective film. This CD may startle Waldron's fans a bit, but it proves that he was open to new ideas.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden