Ben Waltzer

For Good

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Many aspects of pianist Ben Waltzer's modern mainstream jazz musicality are enjoyable. His is a flowing, bright lyricism -- nothing forced, contrived, or clichéd -- and he uses darker reflective shadings and off-minor flourishes à la Monk, Tyner, Cedar Walton, and his teacher Geri Allen. He's well-trained (New England Conservatory, Tufts, Harvard) and far from lightweight. Here it's an all-trio session with bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Jordi Rossy on a program of two standards, Monk and Allen numbers, and five Waltzer compositions. Of the originals, "Ian's Move" is hard charging, illuminating a melody in orange and yellow colors while swinging neatly and cleanly. It's similar to Monk's revamping of "Sweet Georgia Brown" called "Bright Mississippi," which also shows up in slightly reworked fashion two tracks later. You expect waltzes from Waltzer and they're bundled in the middle of the CD -- the title track a deeper hue than most light-hearted three-steps -- and "Skylark" starts with solo piano pining that turns to a 3/4 rhythm that is as quietly urgent and heartfelt as a Randy Weston three-peat. "Home Away from Home" compares favorably to "Little Sunflower" in its melody line, a beautiful concept in a caravan-like pacing. A similar loping desert pulse informs Allen's "Rain." Anderson and Rossy are quite good as rhythm mates, not overpowering the pianist but giving accurate doses of push and pull. This is especially evident on the uppity "Bright Mississippi" and a quickie in the time frame and spatial sense "Sketch." The ballad "Two People" gives Anderson ample solo space, while holiday one note bell tones rev a modal adaptation of "Secret Love." There's another seat on the train next to fellow young pianists Brad Mehldau, Ethan Iverson, Bill Charlap, and Bruce Barth. It's occupied by Waltzer, whose talent and taste easily rival his peers. This is highly recommended to lovers of the piano-bass-drums trio.

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