The debut recording by Canadian (born in Winnipeg, Manitoba) jazz pianist Bryn Roberts is an auspicious one, recorded in Montreal, where he studied at McGill University. Here's a new player, a participant in the New York City (Brooklyn) modern mainstream music scene who has absorbed influences and music by past masters, yet has a sound and style very much his own. This program of originals, excepting a lone standard, has all the drive, inventiveness, and originality you would expect from a person twice his age. Teamed with fellow Canadian (Vancouver) and rising star of the tenor saxophone Seamus Blake, Roberts is able to glide through tricky rhythm changes and angular melody lines with the help of a musician who fully understands both simplicity and complexity, and how that can create a unified whole. Add the great bass player Drew Gress and able drummer Mark Ferber, and you have the makings of an impressive session, which it is. "Ludlow," the title track and introductory cut, is a perfect example of fluid dynamics. The circular piano lines of Roberts swirl around Blake's flowing tenor, accented by intricate time changes and a childlike quality -- ambitious for sure. A similar rondo pattern emerges for "Eau de Vie," an unhurried off-minor traipse by Roberts. "Corrigan" reflects the elfin quality of Chick Corea, a bouncy, counterintuitive head with a driving modal bassline by the always plucky Gress moving into a singsong unison tenor/piano melody and a 7/8 bridge. This is music for the thinking listener. The realm of hard bop is well within their purview during "Hagamos un Trato," with craggy edges but in an oblong form. High drama is the key for the 7/8 time frame of "Indie," a heavy, driven, serious contemporary tune morphed into a spirit song. At their most lighthearted and serene, "Reruns" in 6/8 features the now easygoing but firm signature sound Blake has been honing as the lead soloist for the Mingus Big Band. There are two solo piano pieces, both in waltz time. "Fleure" is a well-developed and stretched poetic piece, while the standard "Dancing in the Dark" shows the deep heart of Roberts in a way that parallels the brilliance of another Canadian jazz pianist from Montreal, Oscar Peterson. If you enjoy well-played, thoughtful, and erudite (not showy) jazz piano performance, this first offering from Bryn Roberts should thoroughly satisfy you.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos