There are plenty of fine jazz pianists running around these days, and not all are readily available on labels. One case in point is Mitchel Forman, whose handy, smart and melodic work has been heard in various settings over the years, including with Wayne Shorter and John McLaughlin. But on his new album, Patience, on his own new label, Sanctuary, Forman shows another side of his musicality: that of the sensitive and versatile piano trio player. It begins in a tranquil mode, with a title cut that waxes a bit too close to soft-jazz sonorities for comfort (Forman helps pay rent by playing with smooth jazzers at times). But things get progressively more interesting, on this track and on the album, as the improvisational heat gets turned up by the trio, which includes bassist Dave Carpenter and drummer Joel Taylor (elsewhere, bassist Jerry Watts Jr. and percussionist Brad Dutz contribute).
By program's end, closing with the gentle exhalation of the sweet ballad "Waiting for Nina," the album has traversed a broad landscape. Forman is a tasteful player, and a fine tunesmith (as with the "Origin"), and he can also burn on demand, as on "Speedy," a short, brisk exercise in intensity. The album's most engaging track, in fact, may be "Ornette," with kinetic motions spun around its alternately playful and thorny-read, Ornette-ish-head.
Though he has been primarily on the jazz sidelines, Forman is a player and composer with plenty going on upstairs. As heard here, his heart is in the right place, to boot.