Don Preston / Don Preston Trio

Transformation

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Pianist Don Preston's jazz pedigree is a little bit strange. Despite having spent time in the 1950s hanging around with such respected figures as Tommy Flanagan and Elvin Jones, he's probably best-known as longtime keyboardist for Frank Zappa and one of the original members of the Mothers of Invention. That digression from the jazz mainstream didn't come out of nowhere; as early as the mid-'50s he was helping Paul Bley and Charlie Haden redefine the parameters of jazz composition and improvisation. And his modern style of writing and playing have clearly been deeply influenced by his years of rambling all over the musical map. On this excellent set you can hear him paying tribute to the jazz avant-garde of the 1960s (especially on "Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbeque") and to the European art music of the mid-20th century ("Walking Batteriewoman"). The long-form "Lind Sonata" is written in a contrapuntal style that harks back to J.S. Bach by way of Hindemith. But as outside as he gets, he never fully departs from a jazz feel -- that's partly due to the texture of the piano trio, and partly due, one suspects, to the fact that that's where his heart truly is. This is not, for the most part, easily accessible music, but it will richly reward anyone who makes an effort to approach it.

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