Seed of Sin
Even though Seed of Sin is his fourth strong album for SteepleChase, Peter Zak has remained under the radar. Zak’s pianistic virtues—taste, balance, a measured sense of formal coherence—are not ones that necessarily get you noticed in a crowded, noisy field.
To “get” Zak, you have to pay close attention. The surfaces of his music seem conventional until you notice how imaginatively his improvisations are developed, and how intelligently they tie. Zak invariably comes upon lovely notes you never anticipated. Also, he has a gift for rescuing gems of the jazz repertoire that slipped through the cracks. He found Jackie McLean’s “Minor Apprehension” on a 1955 George Wallington recording from the Café Bohemia. It is an exhilarating flourish that Zak tears up without seeming to hurry. “Perhaps” is a graceful, little-known Charlie Parker line that Zak uses to feature his excellent bassist Paul Gill, who is articulate as a soloist and spring-loaded as an accompanist.
Zak also writes gems of his own: “Propinquity” opens with still pools of lyricism and then releases as a samba that Zak streams for 10 minutes, continually uncovering fresh insights. “Shala” has a heartfelt melodic inevitability that, in a more perfect world, would make its composer famous.