Hal Galper's working trio with bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer John Bishop has broken free of the typical expectations of a piano trio. Recorded over two days at the 2009 Earshot Jazz Festival in Seattle, Galper challenges the crowd to join them in their explorations. The pianist's wonderfully abstract approach to the venerable standard "How Deep Is the Ocean" avoids stating the melody outright and doesn't allow the listener to get used to one rhythm, opting instead to skim over its chord changes in waves that suggest the ever-changing nature of the sea. Galper's breezy interpretation of Duke Ellington's blues "Take the Coltrane" (composed for his studio meeting with John Coltrane) is a more straight-ahead affair, though Galper's wide-ranging improvisations take it deep into post-bop territory. Charlie Parker fans will find that the trio's explosive, dramatic setting of "Constellation" takes them into a new galaxy, barely hinting at this familiar bop favorite. The pianist's compositions are equally potent. The humorously titled "Rapunzel's Luncheonette" is a whirling, free-form firestorm that sounds as if it were improvised on the spot. Galper dedicates the moving ballad "Soliloquy" to Michael Brecker (who died in 2008), a heartfelt piece that wraps with a dramatic finale by the pianist that seems to cry out at the injustice of losing a talented musician and good friend prematurely. Hal Galper is not one to stand still in his comfort zone but continues his stretching of musical boundaries, as he and his trio prove with this rewarding live recording.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden