Thursday, March 6, 2014

Get to Know: Leslie Pintchik

Pianist Leslie Pintchik is about to release her fourth CD, "In the Nature of Things" (Pinch Hard 2014) this month, a set of eight modern mainstream jazz pieces that she wrote along with one standard "I've Grown Accustomed To Her Face". I've been a fan since her first release in 2004, and this is another in a series of excellent performances from Pintchik and her group. 

Pintchik has an interesting biography. Before embarking on her musical career she taught English Lit at Columbia University, and received a Master of Philosophy degree in 17th Century English Literature. Her interest in music blossomed afterwards and she began her career with a stint with bassist Red Mitchell at the legendary club Bradley's on University Place in Greenwich Village. From that point forward she was committed to her jazz career and formed a trio with Scott Hardy on bass and Michael Sarin or Satoshi Takeishi on drums. All three -- Hardy, Sarin, and Takeishi -- appear on this CD, along with trumpet and flugelhorn player Ron Horton and Steve Wilson on saxophones. Wilson also arranged the horns on the six pieces on which they appear. 

The first CD from the trio (without Sarin) was "So Glad to Be Here" (Ambient Records 2004), a set of 11 pieces, seven by Pintchik along with three covers-- "All the Things You Are", "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song" and "We See" -- plus one original by bassist Hardy. The covers are played with a uniqueness that indicated Pintchik's already original writing, with the first done with a latin beat and the second a group encounter of great intensity and color. Her own songs are wide ranging in character, and the percussion of Takeishi certainly enhances the mood of each. This is a great opening salvo for her career. 

"Quartets" (Ambient Records 2007) came next and in addition to the trio added sax player Wilson for one quartet, and shifted Takeishi to percussion and added Mark Dodge on drums for the other. There are nine pieces, five by Pintchik, highlighted by a somber, slow version of "Happy Days Are Here Again" by the Dodge quartet, and the contrasting light and airy "Over Easy" and "Private Moments", originals by Pintchik featuring the lilting sounds of Wilson's saxes. The CD is fairly restrained but nonetheless captivating, and speaks to Pintchik's impressionistic writing and growing sonic palette. 

The third CD is "We're Here to Listen" (Pintch Hard 2010) with Hardy, Takeishi, and Hodge. Pintchik is up to six originals here, and interesting cover versions of "Blowin' in the Wind"  and "For All We Know". This is the most relaxed and laid back of the first three outings, with a number of nice mid-tempo songs played very simply and elegantly by Pintchik, particularly "Completely" and "For All We Know". Very nice music, elegant ind interesting melodies,  but perhaps a bit too mellow given what has come before. 

The newest CD, "In the Nature of Things" returns the group to a more rounded menu of songs and is a stronger CD, in fact the strongest one yet by Pintchik. The variety of moods, tempi, and dynamics is enhanced by the inclusion of Horton and Wilson on six of the tunes, with arrangements as previously noted by Wilson. Pintchik states the melodies in her songs and uses the horns to provide counter punches, as on the strongly grooved and bouncy "I'd Turn Back if I Were You", or for counter-melodies on several others, which deepens the context and emotional strength of the music. Pintchik has grown as a composer and has a gift for writing in various forms so there are mid-tempo ballads, uptempo swings, New Orleans sounds, latin, and blues sprinkled in the nine compositions, with only one standard this time, a beautifully and delicately rendered "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face". "Sparkle" is one example of the mid-tempo swing and provides plenty of room for each player to solo, while "Terse Tune" is a minor blues" with a simple melody that grows in power and climaxes with dueling horns, drums, and percussion. "Ripe" and "Ready" are latinate tunes with flowing melodies and rich harmonies, and in the case of the former a wonderfully soothing flugelhorn solo by Horton. 

This is an outstanding addition to Pintchik's discography and one for fans of the modern mainstream.

Finally, for those in the NY area, Pintchik and her group are regulars around Manhattan at various clubs, and will be performing at a CD release concert at Jazz at  Kitano on Friday April 25th. 

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