City Light Entertainment
It is standard procedure for artists, on their Web sites and in their press kits, to itemize the musicians with whom they have played. Mike Melvoin’s list includes Frank Sinatra, Tom Waits, the Beach Boys, Barbra Streisand, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and John Lennon—to name just a few.
A 45-year career as a major Los Angeles studio musician is the basis for Melvoin’s unparalleled ability to name-drop. In the last few years he has successfully returned to his first love, the piano trio. In 2003 he received a Grammy nomination for It’s Always You, also on City Light.
His new album, You Know, is so comprehensively balanced and so meticulously executed that it could serve as a 71-minute academic seminar on the essential ingredients of the mainstream jazz piano trio. Melvoin takes quaint, sentimental songs (“This Is The Moment,” “I’ll Be Seeing You”), and transforms them into firm, scholarly essays on jazz. The fifth track is so cleverly reconstituted (a quote from “Stompin’ At The Savoy,” an andante tempo, new passing tones) that it is almost unrecognizable as Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.”
Melvoin’s music can be thoroughly enjoyed for its craftsmanship, even if it lacks the twists and edges that would create a particularized personality—and the breakthroughs and revelations that would give it lasting importance as art.