Friday, July 13, 2012

New Music I am Listening To Today: Steve Einerson

ArrivalThe back of the CD I am listening to, "Arrival" (Cellar Live 2012) by Steve Einerson, says "Steve Einerson is on his way to becoming one of the greatest pianists in the history of jazz." This clearly is a bit of hyperbole at this early date, but does reflect how good this piano trio and CD really is.  The essay about Einerson on the packaging runs over 4 1/2 sides of this trifold and is greatly appreciated. It tells about Einerson, his background and pedigree, and the music itself.  I wish all CDs provided this type of detail.

This is his first recording as a leader, and it is really impressive. Folks who like straight-ahead piano trios, who like to hear classic songs played well will apreciate it. So will those who like to hear a classic piano trio playing new songs written in the classic style with a creative hand.  Those who like things that are a bit outside, think "modern creative jazz" and Iyer or Iverson or Shipp, may find the material too old fashioned for their tastes, but that is what makes the music so great (Mind you I like all three pianists cited in this sentence as well as their CDs -- you don't have to like one or the other and in fact I hope you don't). With new songs and a new ear, Einerson has not simply repeated the past but has created his own path using the past as his touchstone.

Einerson is no spring chicken -- he is 38 and clearly a student of the genre. He is from Wisconsin and is the child of two musicians. He studied music for a while, and then finance, played part-time for a long time until he threw himself into the music by relocated to New York in 2004. From then on, music has been his life, and he has played with all sorts of New York based players -- Eric Alexander, Brian Lynch, and his two partners on this CD, Paul Gill on bass and Pete Van Nostrand on drums.  The essay describes how he has learned from the masters, absorbed their stylings and writings, and then incorporated them into his own sound. He cites Bud Powell as his first influence, and then Cedar Walton, Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, and Harold Mabern as the key influences on his playing. He then goes on to note so many others -- Wynton Kelly, Red Garland, Sonny Clark, Barry Harris, Ahmad Jamal, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans.  With these classicists as his models, how could he not have shaped a tremendously enjoyable CD first time out? 

Einerson wrote 6 of the 9 pieces, and selected three interesting songs upon which to improvise -- "That Sunday, That Summer" best known as a ballad for Nat King Cole, Julie Styne and Sammy Cahn's "I Guess I'll Hang My Tears Out to Dry," and Elton John's "Your Song." His six pieces take the language of his "teachers" and create lovely melody lines, creative interplay with the bass and drums, and those little touches that distinguish him as a pianist to watch for. "Nikki's Joy" starts off the disc with a nice mid-tempo romp that right away sets the mood and establishes Einerson's impeccable credentials. Fleeting Moments" ends the disc and is a first rate ballad worthy of the masters, played over some simple brushwork and spare coloration. In between there are a range of tempos and moods, including some blues and some bossa, all tastefully presented.

Cellar Live may be a small label, but it has a great track record for its releases and this is one more feather  in Cory Weeds' cap. Kudos too to Ian Hendrickson-Smith for the lovely sound of the recording.

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