David Leonhardt has always been a jazz pianist first, while enamored with the realm of contemporary popular songs. This duality is reflected in this set of standards, originals, and rearrangements of well-known hit tunes. While one wonders if there is a real need to do numbers out of the repertoire of the Beatles, Elton John, Cream, and James Taylor, Leonhardt and his trio do them with a modified flair and at times a thoughtful repast. The extraordinary bassist Matthew Parrish and hot drummer Alvester Garnett help Leonhardt greatly in lifting all of these tracks to a higher interpretive level. The originals of the pianist are, to say the least, interesting. "Whispers of Contentment, Shouts of Joy" is a definitive spirit song, lovely in its Zen-like invention. "The Dawn Over Morocco" sports impending heavy dramatic modality leading to a brighter day, the title track is a free bop true to its title, and "Winter Waltz" a quicker ice skating number reminiscent of a Vince Guaraldi Charlie Brown tune. "Late Night Blues" is pretty straitlaced, and "Iberian Lament" organic, pretty, and pensive. The trio does a splendid, sprinting version of the Jerome Kern standard "Yesterdays" moving quickly from sideline to sideline, and a gorgeous, near-perfect interpretation of Horace Silver's "Peace." Then there's the block chords and light Brazilian take of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," a waltz to the 4/4 saccharine "Your Song," a hard bopping and scattershot but barely recognizable "Sunshine of Your Love," and off-melody phrases but otherwise true to form "Fire & Rain." As honest, balanced, and flexible a musician as there is in jazz, Leonhardt and this truly excellent trio needs to be heard by a general populist mainstream audience, and likely stretch these tracks out in more intimate live performances.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos