Simon Nabatov / Simon Nabatov Trio

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Born in Russia, educated on New York jazz, and now a resident of Cologne, Nabatov is a pianist with virtuoso tendencies, and he has effectively harnessed that energy on this hair-raising recording. Bassist Mark Helias and drummer Tom Rainey utilize plenty of their own firepower to set him off. The leader wrote five of the seven selections, Helias the other two, and though they are modern mainstream, the emphasis is modern, as Nabatov pushes both buttons and envelopes with this impressive music. At its "toughest," "Kdreefda Molaina" by Helias is reminiscent of Thelonious Monk in character, but more like a Degas or Picasso as an art work. The piece is in a constant state of metamorphosis, always changing in pace, meter, and timbre, seemingly at will. The mark of a perfectionist is the seven/four workout, the tricky title track where Nabatov lets it all hang out, jamming for his and his bandmates' lives. The 13-minute "The Sage" starts and ends as a dark ballad, but storms brew midway with a five/four timing shift on piano, bass at seven/four, and drums in six/eight. A tom-tom solo from Rainey, and dramatic, soulful chords by Nabatov punctuate the rhythmic incursions. "Mark This" offers 16 minutes of a bossa-flavored, brighter melody with a grand bass solo from Helias. "Puzzled," as the title suggests, has wildly inquisitive counterpoint chatter between the three in four/four timing, and a slyness reminiscent of Joanne Brackeen from the pianist. It's a wonderful question and answer session. On the more ballad-slanted side there is the dark composition from Helias, "Professor of the Air Science," and there's also the South African-tinged hymnal refrain "Simple Simon." Nabatov is as much a dancer on the 88 keys as anything else. He does ballet, jitterbug, and his own invented dances; he is quite astounding. Helias and Rainey keep up very nicely, and the trio swings well. This is Nabatov's best effort to date; it's an excellent example of what the modern jazz trio, and this unique stylist, can do these days. Highly recommended.

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