Solo piano albums, especially if they're abstract in nature, require real skills from the improvising artist to keep the listeners' ears glued to the music.It is not my favorite line-up, to be honest, yet if you listen to the following four releases, you can only admire the skills and the vision that lift this music far above the mediocre. Abstract music is rich, and can be emotionally compelling too. The demonstration is here.
Howard Riley - Solo In Vilnius (NoBusiness, 2010) ****
Matthew Shipp - 4D (Thirsty Ear, 2010) ****
Geri Allen - Flying Toward The Sound (Motéma - 2010) ****
Marc Hannaford - Polar (Extreme, 2009) ****
Antripodean Collective". His first solo piano album shows us a guy with a vision : mixing rigidity with openness, sentiment with distance, the cerebral with emotion, playfulness with seriousness. He is not a jazz entertainer, he dives into the music itself and explores and expands from within. I don't think he cares about an audience per se, but that doesn't mean his music is not accessible: it is. But it is full of paradoxes and enigmas, avoiding the obvious, choosing for the austere and the beautiful, searching for the surprise in the lyricism, for the lightfootedness in the drama. Listen to his heavy left hand and his joyful right hand in "Genius And Emptiness". Most pieces are quite short, with the exception of the one mentioned and of "The Book Of Sand", possibly a reference to the Jose Luis Borges story with the same title. Like Borges, the music is self-contained, full of self-references. It is also beyond category : just improvised piano music. Yet very compelling.
Watch Geri Allen on Youtube - for once a real good clip, actually part of the CD
Listen and watch Matthew Shipp solo on Youtube : another great quality clip.