John Esposito is unquestionably a tinkerer of jazz standards, morphing, deconstructing, and modifying them for his own and the listener's delight. The pianist, with distinct cues from McCoy Tyner, reinvents well-known fare on this CD, generally stripping down titles to a single word and reharmonizing the melody lines beyond recognition unless you listen closely. For the casual fan this will involve a bit of work, but those who do know these tunes as originally done will discover a keen sense of rediscovery and freshness within Esposito's ten digits. He splits "It Was Just..." and "...Of Those Things" into an energetic display of virtuosity and a back-halved solo projection, respectively, while the "One" is cleverly replaced by "...9..." in 9/8 time. Tyner's presence is obvious from the start on "Beloved," a modal skittish spray of chords, fleet single lines, and harmonic flourishes. "Red" is an offshoot of Charlie Parker's "Red Cross," the title track is an arpeggiated and off-minor harmonic romp based in the well-worn "On Green Dolphin Street," and "April" is a jumping waltz interpolation of "April in Paris." The wit, wisdom, and downright sarcasm of Esposito are startling, revealing a talent to behold throughout this project. Check out the easy solo treatment of "How Deep Is the Ocean?" retitled simply "Ocean," or the simpler but intricate adaptation of "Autumn in New York" dubbed "Autumn." With bassist Ira Coleman and drummer Peter O'Brien, Esposito either maniacally or thoughtfully throws down these chestnuts, reconfigures them to his own taste and seasoning, and adds a virtuosity seldom heard in players interpreting jazz standards. A bold conception and execution to be sure, and with bandmates who can hold up their end quite well, this recording is hopefully one of many to come from a brilliant player who deserves wider attention.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos