Lao Tizer, a native of Boulder, Colorado, has come a long way musically since composing his first CD at age 14. Now living in the capital of smooth jazz, Southern California, Tizer’s latest expands on the aggressive contemporary jazz of his Golden Soul from 2001. Tizer’s strengths go beyond being a competent pianist; the 14 compositions he wrote showcase a diverse range of styles that speak to the CD’s title.
Not so much smooth jazz as the type of contemporary jazz from the early 1990s that still favored jazz over pop, Diversify also brings together funk and world music influences. Listening to the entire CD, you eventually realize this isn’t so much a piano-jazz CD as a fully imagined one on which Tizer doesn’t hesitate in passing the baton off to his capable bandmates. Especially compelling is the multi-talented Steve Nieves, whose wordless vocals and robust doo-wop add a touch of grandeur to the proceedings.
But Tizer does spotlight his piano skills in two solo turns, “Improvisation” and “November.” “Uptown” is probably the most radio-friendly track, as Tizer’s David Benoit-like snappy piano runs double down with Andy Suzuki’s sax for some delightfully catchy grooves. Diversify is a cohesive whole with many interesting ideas held together by Tizer’s compelling style, but some of the best moments are provided by well-known guest stars. Chieli Minucci, who helped discover the young pianist, lays down some typically sweet guitar lines on a gorgeous tune titled “Flow.” First-call violinist Karen Briggs’ rowdy violin solo spices up the title tune and, come on, when was the last time you heard a violin solo in the middle of a song?