Add Martin Bejerano to the expanding roster of hot young pianists that stretches from Hiromi Uehara and Eldar Djangirov to Robert Glasper and Taylor Eigsti. Bejerano isn’t coming out of nowhere, however. He has spent five years in the bands of Roy Haynes and Russell Malone, and the experience shows.
First of all, Bejerano plays fast. Throughout Evolution/Revolution, his debut as a leader, he challenges his sidemen to keep up, which they do just fine, even when faced with the rapid chord changes of his “Blues Evolution” and the tricky 9/8 structure of his “Cubano Arrepentido.” Edward Perez handles the bass with great dexterity, and Ludwig Afonso’s drumming is crisp and kinetic. Their interpretation of the standard “Lover Man” bounces softly as it begins, but after one run through the verse and chorus it transforms into a midtempo romp, and any pretense of balladry is out the window.
Bejerano’s heart seems squarely in the bebop tradition. The trio’s version of Bud Powell’s “Bouncing With Bud” is so authentic it could have been recorded 50 years ago, and its take on Miles Davis’ “Solar” is so convincing, so mature, that the guys could almost be mistaken for Keith Jarrett’s standards trio (with which it shares certain traits, such as Afonso’s mesmerizing use of the ride cymbal). Bejerano goes it alone for a risky unaccompanied take of “Monk’s Dream,” where he plays with more authority than ever, roaming far from the theme—even playing against time at one point—and never losing his way. What a debut. The other young guns should watch out for this guy.