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May 2006

Taylor Eigsti
Lucky to Be Me
Concord Records

Working with two different rhythm sections (Christian McBride and Lewis Nash opposite James Genus and Billy Kilson), 21-year-old pianist Taylor Eigsti displays enough chops, harmonic smarts and overall good taste on this disc to make age-related hype irrelevant. Even the weaker bits—a funked-up Sopranos theme and the Mussorgsky adaptation “Promenade”—have an improvisational sizzle that keeps one’s finger off the “skip” button. The opening “Giant Steps” zooms along like a futuristic automobile. The funk-to-swing “Love for Sale” brings to mind the best of early Jacky Terrasson. In Eigsti’s hands, “Darn That Dream” is dreamier, “Freedom Jazz Dance” freer. Björk’s “I’ve Seen It All” is another inspired choice, with background horns coloring the mix (they’re blaring and a bit corny on the Sopranos cut). The closing “Lucky to Be Me,” rendered by Eigsti as a solo ballad, comes across as an implicit nod to Bill Evans.

Like his peer Eldar Djangirov, Eigsti is also a promising writer. “Get Your Hopes Up,” “Argument” and “Adventure 1” combine melodic integrity and structural daring. The first two are ideal vehicles for guest guitarist Julian Lage, a Gary Burton protégé who sounds increasingly surefooted (he’s still in his teens). Lage also joins the pianist in a duet on the melancholy 3/4 original “True Colors.”

Originally published in May 2006
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