Softly as in a Morning Sunrise
Albums recorded in Munich are more, not less, likely to sound good. Unfortunately, Softly as in a Morning Sun-rise is an exception. Walter Lang's piano here is hard and glassy. The recording of Rick Hollander's drums, with their clanking cymbals, is obnoxious. The sound makes it even more difficult to come to terms with Lang, an intriguing, frequently off-putting pianist.
Lang writes some attractive lines, like "Casino Estoril" and "October Breeze," and especially "Call on Bill," which may be for Bill Evans. But he is more likely to come up with "Monsieur Hulot" or "D'Afrique," which are ambiguous jumbles of oppositional elements: old/new, static/volatile, sing-song/complex, obvious/jarring. Lang's eccentricities are self-conscious and his purposes are often elusive.
Where Lang's quirkiness is most manifest is in his interpretations of standards. His versions of "Autumn Leaves" and the title track are more aberrant than fresh. His additions and subtractions do not sound like revelations but exercises. The longest and most disappointing performance is "Spring Is Here," a spacey fragmentation that misses all the song's poetry.
I did not like this album much but I will nevertheless be curious to hear Lang's next one.