At times tenderly romantic, at other times introspective, but always assertive, Scottish-born, now-Canadian-resident pianist Ian Bargh presents a program of eleven tunes made up of a Bargh original and Tin Pan Alley products, including a couple of rarely recorded tunes. Bargh has been on the Canadian jazz scene for years, but has spent little time in the studio. Recorded in 1994, this is his only album as a leader. Yet he has appeared with Harry "Sweets" Edison, Zoot Sims, and Warren Vache among others. Bargh has also been featured at the prestigious Bern International Jazz Festival joining an imposing roster of jazz pianists including Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, and Chick Corea, who have been featured there.
This session is one of contrasts where Bargh retains the listener's attention by avoiding routine tempos and musical idioms. With this stylistic bent, Bargh gives his audience its money's worth by using all of the piano. "Laura" gets an unusually muscular reading, followed by a softly rendered medley of "Heather on the Hill" and "Skye Boat Song," recalling his native Scotland. Unrelenting in his virtuosity, his playing can take on a pensive aura as on a lovely rendition of Paul Weston's "When April Comes Again," giving that tune a prominence much greater than it merits. There's some dazzling pianistic acrobatics on the album with arpeggios, runs, knuckle breaking ruminations all played with precision. But they stay within the framework of clear musical objectives of Bargh's interpretations, not to flaunt his pianistic skills. There's a bounce in Duke Ellington's "Serenade to Sweden" combined with a sense of enthusiastic elegance that's not often heard in contemporary jazz pianists. Not straight-laced, there's a down and dirty, stride accented rendition of the Bargh original, "The Price Was Right."
Presenting 65 minutes of solo piano music in a way that grabs and retains the interest of the audience is a challenge Bargh not only meets, but exceeds. This album is recommended.