Ted Piltzecker

Standing Alone

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Any solo CD requires great talent and imagination to be interesting all the way through. With vibes, such long expeditions are rare and can be risky, with things turning monotonous and muddy in the wrong hands. Fortunately, Ted Piltzecker has the right ones, as well as superb taste, time, sensitivity, and swing -- all of it evident in this thoroughly enjoyable collection of 13 tracks, mostly jazz classics done at ballad tempo. A master player with pyrotechnics in reserve, Piltzecker is also a composer, professor, and clinician who tours with the George Shearing Quintet and has released three albums as a leader. Here, he uses a cool palette of violets, blues, and greens -- with occasional flashes of red -- to create music that is both soothing and intriguing. The CD works beautifully as a solo journey because it avoids too much abstraction, delivers one heartfelt, definitive chorus of each tune, and provides ample variety and contrast in dynamics and material. Given Piltzecker's judicious use of the pedal, the tracks are clean and clutter-free; highlighting the beauty and versatility of the instrument, they add a lovely shimmer to old favorites. With this treatment the more haunting melodies -- like "Invitation," Coltrane's "Naima," and Jobim's "Trieste" -- become positively magical. On "La Malanga," the joyful little closer, Piltecker accompanies himself on the djimbe, a small West African drum, a fitting ending to an adventurous journey that is also touching and elegant.

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