Pianist Bobby Schiff is a 35-year veteran of the music business, mostly in Chicago, often as an accompanist to singers. Late Game gets its title, at least in part, from the fact that it is Schiff’s recording debut as a leader.
He is a fluent player whose strength is the communication of sheer joie de vivre on buoyant medium-to-up bouncers like “I’m Old Fashioned” and “Baubles, Bangles and Beads.” He also writes good tunes, and it’s easy to imagine Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker playing “Wonderbop.”
Perhaps Schiff’s optimism works against him on slow, sad material like “Blue in Green,” where his pretty details miss the song’s pensiveness, let alone its angst. “Last Night When We Were Young” is a little stiff and formal.
The pieces that should become the highlights of the album, because they are the most ambitious, are the four with a 10-piece string section. But Schiff’s graceful writing is undermined by the audio quality, which makes the strings sound piped in from down the street and therefore artificial and extraneous.