There are some jazz instrumentalists who don't care for singers at all, but Bobby Schiff is not one of them. In Chicago, the veteran acoustic pianist has a reputation for being a jazz instrumentalist who is more than happy to accompany vocalists. That's a good thing; singers often get a bad rap in the jazz world. But if there is a down side to Schiff's positive relationship with Chicago-based jazz singers, it is the fact that he has spent so much time as an accompanist that he has neglected his own recording career. Schiff, in fact, was in his late fifties or early sixties when, in 2005, he finally got around to recording his first album as a leader, Late Game. This instrumental hard bop/post-bop date (mostly hard bop) sometimes favors the classic piano trio format, uniting Schiff with acoustic bassist Stewart Miller and drummer Chuck Christiansen; other times, Schiff is joined by ten string players. But whatever the combination of musicians, Schiff's pianism is consistently lyrical on an album that ranges from John Lewis' "Skating in Central Park" to Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Por Toda a Minha Vida" to Robert Wright's "Baubles, Bangles and Beads." Bill Evans is clearly an influence on Schiff's swinging yet melodic approach, and other valid stylistic comparisons include Wynton Kelly, Tommy Flanagan, Billy Taylor, Hank Jones and Red Garland. In a perfect world, Schiff would have recorded an album long before 2005; he probably should have started building a catalog in the '60s or '70s. But better late than never, and Late Game is an enjoyable start to Schiff's long overdue recording career as a leader.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson