Kirk Lightsey Trio

Goodbye Mr. Evans

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With Goodbye Mr. Evans, pianist Kirk Lightsey demonstrates once again that he is one of the most seriously underappreciated artists in jazz. A member of the illustrious Detroit school of jazz pianists (a group whose members include Hank Jones, Tommy Flanagan, and Barry Harris), Lightsey has played with such heavyweights as Dexter Gordon, David Murray, and James Moody; but his albums as a leader seem oddly neglected, at least for a pianist of such gifts. A master of the oblique melodic statement, Lightsey crafts perfectly balanced phrases that seem to flow naturally through his chosen material; and while he has plenty of finger power at his disposal, he tends to favor subtlety over fireworks, a fact that may help account for his relatively low profile. On Goodbye Mr. Evans, the pianist revisits some of his favorite compositions, including Thelonious Monk's intricate "Four in One" and his own pensive "Habiba"; and he treats ballads and burners alike with the same limpid touch and deeply swinging delivery. Much of Lightsey's work possesses a restless, searching quality, and Goodbye Mr. Evans is no exception. On tracks like "A New Blue and "In Your Own Sweet Way," his solo lines sound like unanswered questions, failing to resolve where one might expect them to do so. That penchant for the elliptical may explain Lightsey's fondness for the works of Wayne Shorter, whose enigmatic "Pinocchio" is featured in a blisteringly fast medley and whose rollicking "One By One" keeps popping up throughout "In Your Own Sweet Way." Bassist Tibor Elekes nearly steals the show with his beautifully rounded tone and delightfully melodic solos; and if drummer Famoudou Don Moye of the Art Ensemble of Chicago seems overly busy at times alongside the understated Lightsey, he does manage to generate a wealth of interesting ideas.

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