After spending much of the 1990s at Concord Jazz, Walter Norris started his own label, Sunburst Recordings, with From Another Star. This excellent CD, recorded when Norris was 66, finds the sparkling yet cerebral pianist forming a duo with bassist Mike Richmond, who he enjoys a strong rapport with on unconventional interpretations of "Tiger Rag" and "All The Things You Are" as well as introspective Norris originals such as "A Crest of Amber," "Images Enhanced" and "Elysium." When many of the "Young Lions" of the 1990s embraced a standard like "All The Things You Are," it was easy to let out a big sigh and think, "The last thing jazz needs is yet another version of a standard that was already done to death in 1959." But with Norris, a standard is something you welcome because you know he's going to do something surprising with it--and true to form, the Berlin-based American alters the melody and chords of "All The Things You Are" and manages to say something new with it. Though one can hear the influences that Norris has picked up over the years--Bud Powell in his early years, Bill Evans later on-- From Another Star reminds us that the pianist is quite unique and distinctive himself.
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