Michael Pagán

Three for the Ages

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A full decade separates pianist Michael Pagan's previous trio recording from this one, while in the interim, he's been busy teaching, composing, and working with a big band. Situated in Kansas City, Pagan's music on this recording reflects the cushy side of jazz, a program consisting mostly of ballads. With bassist Bob Bowman and drummer Ray DeMarchi, you can clearly hear that Pagan has been influenced by the introspective tones of Bill Evans, but occasionally, the brash verve of Oscar Peterson also comes to the forefront. Blessed with a beautiful touch and a steady stream of ideas to match, Pagan makes music that is beautiful and honest with tradition firmly in hand. Not all sweetness and light, Pagan's trio swings along nicely on their spirited, upbeat, steady and solid version of "How Deep Is the Ocean?," and the bouncy "The Best Thing for You," recalling Peterson in verve and virtuosity. Everything else is laid-back, but the opener, "You Don't Know What Love Is," really sets the mellowed-out tone over nearly 11 minutes of discourse in the Evans mode. Bowman's bass rings out, resonating in the mix, booming big fat notes of buoyed rhythm on the bluesy theme from Jesus Christ Superstar "Gethsemane," and during his solo for Pagan's pristine waltz "Three for the Ages," again reflecting the harmonic Bill Evans touch. Ever mindful of the ladies, the trio wistfully pines in late-night refrains on the romantic "Falling in Love," and is ultimately evocative for the demure tones of "Atras De Porta." This trio is dedicated to passion, an inner fire that only slightly smolders, but presents a type of jazz that is discernibly present in the moment, then dissipates quickly like wisps of smoke. A recording built for a specific dinner music or after-hours crowd, Pagan and his trio have created an organ of beauty that stands out in the crowded foyer of piano/bass/drums jazz trios, but more for its command of subtlety than its overt pyrotechnics.

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