Having studied at Juilliard and toured early on with trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, pianist/composer Aaron Diehl is the epitome of a sophisticated, urbane jazz musician. Following up his well-received 2013 effort, The Bespoke Man's Narrative, Diehl digs even further into impeccably appointed, straight-ahead acoustic jazz on his third full-length album, 2015's Space Time Continuum. Joining Diehl here is a cadre of equally gifted sidemen including bassist David Wong and drummer Quincy Davis, as well as a handful of special guests including the masterful saxophonist Benny Golson and Jazz at Lincoln Center baritone saxophonist Joe Temperley. Also adding their own flavor to the proceedings are rising stars tenor saxophonist Stephen Riley and trumpeter Bruce Harris, along with vocalist Charenée Wade. With contemporaries like Kris Bowers and Robert Glasper pushing their music toward the edges of jazz, hip-hop, and electronic fusion, Diehl's more traditional if no less accomplished approach comes off as striking and unusual in contrast. Cuts like the ruminative, impressionistic "The Steadfast Titan" and the Spanish flamenco-infused "Santa Maria" bring to mind the lyricism of Billy Strayhorn mixed with the measured, dreamlike qualities of classical composers like Claude Debussy and Olivier Messiaen. Elsewhere, Diehl swings hard with an exuberant reading of Walter Davis, Jr.'s "Uranus" and dives headlong into the fluid "Flux Capacitor," featuring a breathy, lithe performance from Riley. Certainly, the album's extended compositional moments, such as the bluesy, literate title track and the suite-like "Organic Consequence," are impressive in sheer scope. However, it's on the tracks where Diehl's adroit, kinetic piano playing takes the spotlight, as on the Bud Powell-infused "Broadway Boogie Woogie," that Space Time Continuum most threatens to break the jazz universe wide open.
AllMusic Review by Matt Collar