Jeff Hellmer

Peak Moments

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Peak Moments is Jeff Helmer's second album to date, and it might just be the pianist's best effort yet. The album features one of the hottest lineups of musicians anywhere: John Fremgen on stand up acoustic bass, drummer AD Mannion, and Helmer on piano. To top things off, powerhouse tenor saxophone player Rick Margitza sits in on the session, and the results are nothing less than simmering. Helmer's playing on Peak Moments is hard swinging and fiercely original -- deviating between long, lushly creative phrases in the upper register and low, pumping melodic forays into the pockets laid down by Fremgen and Mannion, a rhythm team whose work here is eerily flawless. Margitza's playing is excellent as well; from the very first song (Cole Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love?"), the saxophonist spirals up into progressively more complex layers of improvisation, peaking with the classic standard "All the Things You Are," played here by the band in a new, refreshingly spontaneous way. Every good jazz album must have at least one ballad, and here Helmer chooses the lovely Leonard Bernstein tune "Some Other Time." This tune is rarely covered outside of Bill Evans' Waltz for Debbie album, but Helmer makes the piece his own, playing a lushly expressive solo that soars into several beautiful sequences in the upper registers before touching down into the melody again. Helmer's album should be considered an exciting addition to the modern jazz piano catalog.

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