Kind of Blue
Adam Benjamin is best known for his work in plugged-in bands like Kneebody and Dave Douglas’ Keystone. On Long Gone, his second solo piano album, he stays acoustic with occasional brief colorations from the Fender Rhodes. The album was recorded in Maxine Studio in Milan, Italy, and the sonic quality is airless and hard-edged. Since Benjamin’s keyboard touch is aggressive, even combative, this is a solo piano recording with a harsh glare.
The technical interest of these performances—there are tunes by Ornette Coleman, Coltrane, the Beach Boys and Tears for Fears—comes from their cleverness in creating lush, intensely pianistic versions of nonpianistic material, like pop tunes and pieces from the repertoires of pianoless and/or saxophone-dominated jazz quartets. Benjamin’s version of “Giant Steps” is less than three minutes long, but it injects so many new ingredients into Coltrane’s famous chord and key changes that the song is discernible only in flashes. The inversions of expectation here are often too obvious. “Willow Weep for Me” is taken as a hammering, banging boogie. Coleman’s “Law Years” is a grandiose ballad, with the flourishes and gestures for their own sake, on which Benjamin is overly reliant.