In the Still of the Night
Contemporary Record Society (CRS)
Though his first album in some 15 years, multi-instrumentalist Tom Ranier has led a happily productive, fast-track life as a studio musician (including playing on the scores for Forrest Gump and Space Jam), jazz educator (he's part of Kenny Burrell's new Jazz Studies team at UCLA), and much sought-after accompanist (most recently, he's lifted bandstands with Terry Gibbs, Pete Christlieb, George Coleman and Lew Tabackin). Now, in a stunning debut for Contemporary, Ranier focuses his many talents in a landmark project destined to be a "musician's album."
There are intimate trio forays with Abe Laboriel and Harvey Mason into standards such as "How Deep Is the Ocean" giving Ranier opportunities to meditate on such pianistic icons as Oscar Peterson, Chick Corea and Bill Evans. Then, there are the set pieces for jazz trio and orchestra. Here, in startling takes on familiar fare such as the stunning title track and originals like "Night and Promise," writer-arranger Ranier distills influences ranging from Michel Legrand and Nelson Riddle to Eddie Sauter. Ranier, though, is very much his own man. And, when he switches to say clarinet for "Memories of You," one starts thinking, "What can't he do?" In closing let me paraphrase annotator Buddy DeFranco, who aptly describes his task as an exercise in "How many ways can I say: SUPERB!" Amen!