Kevin Hays

Open Range: Piano Works III

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Kevin Hays' departure from his birthplace (New York City) for Santa Fe, NM, helped inspire this collection of originals, most of which are piano solos. Hays' longtime jazz fans are in for a surprise, as this session is a great departure from his earlier recordings as a leader. The introductory track, "Open Range," has a lonely, somewhat pastoral feeling, sounding more like a classical piano sonata. "Nursery Rhyme" consists of enchanting variations on its brief opening theme in a hushed setting. "Harmonium" begins with the sounds of children playing in the distance on the shoreline, with Hays playing the keyboard with one hand and alternately dampening and plucking the strings with the other. "Homestead" is a bit erratic, with the echo of the piano in the distance and Hays' odd vocal chant, which may be easier to enjoy than the singing of Keith Jarrett, though it still is somewhat annoying. Hays does a better job singing in his subdued, richly textured interpretation of the old chestnut "You Are My Sunshine," though he gets carried away by overdubbing a harmony vocal and string sample. "Humming Bird Song" is an unusual miniature, with Hays accompanying a distorted-sounding Native American chant. Obviously, this must have been a very satisfying session for Kevin Hays, and it is well worth investigating despite its occasional distractions.

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