For someone in the market for a jazz-piano recording, there are few safer investments than a Harold Danko album (and if we’re talking trios, add bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Jeff Hirshfield). Every Danko recording I’ve ever heard has had clarity and depth and a specific reason to exist.
The opening tune is Bill Evans’ “Time Remembered.” It is risky for pianists to venture onto Evans’ turf, but Danko creates an intimate personal reflection on the domain of the soul that Bill Evans owned. “All or Nothing at All” has been done to death. Here it is a fascinating, flowing transformation into 5/4 that starts slowly and subtly accelerates but remains so lyrical that the double-time of Formanek and Hirshfield toward the end is seamless. Danko played in the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, and there are two of Jones’ finest but least-known themes (“It Only Happens Every Time,” “To You”), patiently, freshly illuminated.
The final track, “Bye-Ya,” says a lot about Danko. Most pianists who play Monk either sound like pale clones or else the Monk-ian essence escapes them. This “Bye-Ya” has perfect, thorny Thelonious kinkiness with lots of Danko poured all over it.